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Festival of Ideas

How Do We Build Better Futures, Together? Jon Alexander

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Political violence. Global inequality. Climate catastrophe. The headlines of our time are enough to make anyone feel helpless. So what do we do now? How do we begin to build something better, together?

Jon Alexander (author of Citizens: Why the Key to Fixing Everything is All of Us) spent the first decade of his career in the advertising industry, selling some of the world’s biggest brands. Then he realised he was caught up in a story he didn’t believe in – the ‘Consumer Story’, a foundational story of humans as inherently self-interested and competitive.

This story has shaped not just individual behaviour but organisational design, economic theory, the role of government, morality – all of culture and society. But now the consumer story is failing, and we have the chance to embrace a new story, one in which we actively shape the world around us, cultivate meaningful connections to our communities and institutions, imagine different and better lives, care and take responsibility, and create opportunities for others to do the same.

In conversation with Andrew Kelly, Alexander puts forward compelling new narratives for our current moment, and discuss the ways in which we can become collaborative, caring, creative citizens who can work together to shape our communities, organisations and nations for the better.

Award-winning political commentator Ece Temelkuran was supposed to join Jon Alexander to talk about her latest book, Together, but due to delays in her visa, she was unable to travel to the UK in time.

Recorded in front of a live audience in May 2022.

Jon Alexander’s Citizens: Why the Key to Fixing Everything is All of Us is published by Canbury Press. Ece Temelkuran’s Together: A Manifesto Against the Heartless World is published by 4th Estate. Buy copies online or at the event from Waterstones.

Jon Alexander

Jon Alexander began his career in advertising, winning the prestigious Big Creative Idea of the Year, before making a dramatic change. Driven by a deep need to understand the impact on society of 3,000 commercial messages a day, he gathered three Masters degrees, exploring consumerism and its alternatives from every angle. In 2014, he co-founded the New Citizenship Project to bring the resulting ideas into contact with reality. Citizens: Why the Key to Fixing Everything is All of Us is his first book.

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