The Performance Theatre 2014 took place in Oslo 13-14 June, featuring keynote addresses from education activist Malala Yousafzai, Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg and Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon.
The theme for this year’s theatre was ‘Leadership with a human purpose’, with the near-200 participants, drawn from business, politics and civil society, exploring leadership that challenges the status quo and leaves humanity better off.
TPT’s chairman Lord Browne of Madingley welcomed participants to City Hall, the main venue for both days of the theatre. He commented that, while it was his sixth TPT, this year’s theme had struck a very personal note and went on to share how keeping his sexuality hidden meant he did not lead authentically: “I didn’t bring my whole self to work”. It set the tone for speakers and participants alike to share the personal stories that brought our theme real meaning.
The theatre is centred around three plenary sessions – called ‘Acts’ – the first being ‘Challenging assumptions’. TPT’s founder and vice chairman Osvald Bjelland opened the Act by speaking about the new kind of growth we need, while Dr Angela Wilkinson, strategic foresight counsellor at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, asked if the forecasting and analytical models on which we rely can lead to complacency and destruction. Chinese businessman Ronnie Chan, of Hang Lung Group and Hang Lung Properties, spoke feistily on assumptions about the US and China, before former UK foreign secretary David Miliband eloquently shared his first-hand experiences leading an NGO, saying that “NGOs need to turn their liabilities into strengths”.
Participants then split into five smaller groups for Act Two, ‘The Oslo Dialogues’, where intimate groups discussed topics connected to our overarching theme. Hosted at locations around the city, the topics – ‘Reducing inequality for empowering society’, ‘Long-term and ethical investing’, ‘The challenge of integration’, ‘Education and skills’, and ‘Leadership in an age of wicked problems and wicked progress’ – proved as inspiring as ever and sparked further debate and knowledge-sharing throughout the day. Read more on the Dialogues, including our hosts and contributors, here.
Returning to City Hall, António Mexia, CEO of Portuguese energy company EDP, Sam Pitroda, chairman of the National Innovation Council of India, and Jamie Drummond, founder and executive director of ONE took to the stage for Act 2 on ‘Seeing systems’. After sharing their insights on how leaders can leverage the broader systems in which they operate to bring value to society at large as well as individual companies, Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg delivered a keynote address on the role of education in solving regional and global challenges.
Day one concluded with the presentation of the Inspired Leadership Award. This year’s award was given to Melinda Gates, co-founder and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with Nigeria Gates Foundation representative Dr Mairo Mandara accepting the award from committee chairman Geoff Colvin on Ms Gates’ behalf.
Day two of the theatre was one of the most inspiring in TPT’s history. The opening keynote was delivered by Malala Yousafzai in what was her first public appearance in Norway. The 16-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl spoke movingly of her near-fatal encounter with the Taliban and how the oppression of women and girls had made her only more determined to fight harder for the right of every girl and boy to an education.
Ms Yousafzai then took part in Act Four on ‘Revolutionising trust’, joining a panel discussion alongside Rick Haythornthwaite, chairman of the board of directors for MasterCard and Centrica, Yves Daccord, director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Alec Loorz, founder of Kids vs Global Warming and the iMatter campaign. Mr Loorz, aged 20, gave a passionate speech on climate change and the responsibilities of current leaders to the next generation.
The fifth and final Act was opened with a keynote from His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon of Norway. A renowned leader and campaigner for young people, he spoke passionately on the importance of leading with dignity, before a mix of leaders under 30 and over 70 discussed the road ahead for leadership in ‘Creating the future’. Professor Robert Thurman, professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University and Reverend Dr CT Vivian, minister, civil rights leader, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and founder of the CT Vivian Leadership Institute spoke on the lessons learned from their many years as leaders and thinkers. Maria Fanjul, CEO of entradas.com and digital entrepreneur, and Dr Christian Busch, co-founder of Sandbox, then shared their perspective of the new, disruptive leadership needed for the future.
Our thanks to the moderators of our main sessions: Todd Benjamin, former financial editor for CNN; Geoff Colvin, senior editor-or-large for Fortune Magazine; and Dr Gabrielle Walker, chief scientist for Xyntéo.
The Performance Theatre was closed by Lord Browne of Madingley before Osvald Bjelland introduced EDP’s António Mexia as the host of the 2015 theatre in Lisbon, Portugal.
The programme is also available as an insight into the event.