For years I used to convene events — large and small — in London and all over the world. My team and I brought thousands of people together with hundreds of fascinating speakers delivering talks brimming with novel ideas and insights.
People would often be kind enough say they had been inspired by attending our events. Years on, people still contact me, sharing stories about how the people they met and talks they watched helped them professionally but also creatively and intellectually.
Convening and hosting these events were among the most satisfying experiences of my life.
Now I want to start hosting them again, this time with a twist.
Over the past six months VolteFace, the policy innovation studio I founded last year, we have been taking a close look at the problems inside British prisons. We are taking a particular interest in how drugs consumption in these often dangerous and inhospitable places makes life intolerable for inmates and staff. Later this year we will publish a major report about how we think we should deal with this.
Inspiration is in notoriously short supply inside in prisons, which got me thinking.
Maybe I could use my old curatorial skills, harness my contacts and do some good.
The thing is, that when I used to convene events and festivals the people who came along, to learn and be inspired, were actually themselves very inspiring. They were typically bright with good career trajectories in media, marketing, technology, public relations or public affairs. They belonged — and I don’t mean this at all to be disparaging — to the demographic sliver of folk who probably least needed to be inspired. They were people who would happily give up a day, an evening or a weekend of their life to be exposed to new concepts and be with others who flourish in situations where ideas are being bandied around freely.
So I thought about prisons and the people who spend every day inside their walls. Maybe they too might like to meet and listen to inspiring people. Maybe they needed it more than anyone else. If they were exposed to fresh ideas maybe, just maybe, they might just begin to think differently about their future life prospects.
So next year, with your help and others, I am going to find brilliant people who will give a little of their time to go and give a talk in a prison.
It is a simple idea, one I know I can do and I’m sure it will do some good.
So if you are interested in getting involved, get in touch with me and we’ll get to work.
I will announce details of the first talks later this year.
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