Seattle 2019


The theme of this year – ‘Higher Resolutions: Leadership for a Changing Social Contract’ – was an invitation to think about how leaders rebuild trust in key institutions, including companies, governments and the media, in a time of rapid technological, environmental and political change.

You can read the programme here.

Day one

The Performance Theatre (TPT) 2019 began with a blessing from the Lummi Nation and a reflection from our Seattle host, Dr Nathan Myhrvold, CEO of Intellectual Ventures and Global Good, on how Seattle had emerged from economic decline in the 1980s to become a global centre for technological innovation. He shared his thoughts on the evolving relationship between people, technology and data, his own experiences as an inventor and the importance of organisational cultures that tolerate failure.

Exploring what the social contract means at different levels of resolution, we heard from former Toronto mayor, David Miller, and former Philadelphia mayor, Michael Nutter, on how cities are emerging as forces for global change; and we heard from Chhavi Rajawat on the challenges of being a sarpanch (village head) in Rajasthan, working to promote economic development and deliver services in a rural village.

Norm Stamper, former chief of the Seattle Police Department during the 1999 WTO protests, shared a reflection on what it takes to acknowledge and live with a decision you regret. We then practised some techniques for reconciliation that can be applied in our personal and working lives.

Day one closed with a celebration of this year’s Inspired Leadership Awardees at the Intellectual Ventures laboratory.

Day two

We began with visits to different community organisations across Seattle to learn about their work in areas as diverse as gender activism, gentrification, homelessness and mental health. A conclusion emerging from shared reflection afterwards was the importance of dialogue with communities, and attention to local perspectives when scaling up any programme, technology or business model.

In the afternoon, Prukalpa Sankar, co-founder of SocialCops, were interviewed by Jeremy Heimans, co-author of ‘New Power’ and CEO of Purpose, on how technology is impacting social contracts – and the opportunities and risks of an unprecedented ability to access, share and analyse data.

A conversation between António Simões, CEO of Global Private Banking at HSBC, Deborah Frieze, founder and president of the Boston Impact Initiative, and Sallie Calhoun of #NoRegrets Initiative, explored how finance could work more like nature. The three panellists shared thoughts on the potential for using biomimicry to inspire new models for promoting more regenerative economies.

TPT 2019 closed with a powerful and moving performance from Anna Deavere Smith on apology and reconciliation. She performed the personal testimonies of two individuals she had interviewed: one, a white American doctor encountering the reality of the social contract for poor, black communities during the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina; the other, a black Congressman recounting the impact of two separate apologies from a young police chief and a former Ku Klux Klan member. It was a compelling reminder that even the deepest historical and personal divisions can be bridged; that higher resolutions are possible.