Six years of 6Heads – the better angels of our nature

Thank you to the wonderful Cecilia for this great write-up of our EPIC event on Monday evening.  Our heads are full of new thinking and our hearts are grateful for ALL the generous people who inspired and shared on Monday. Please do continue to send through your thoughts, blogs and pictures. More to follow…

Monday nights are often pretty dull, especially at this time of year – it’s dark and cold, and everyone is adjusting to being back in the daily grind of the week. So it was hugely refreshing and uplifting to spend my Monday evening in the company of the lovely people at 6Heads, as well as a large number of their friends and supporters.

6Heads is a collective founded by 6 M.Sc. students from Imperial College, which has since grown to include many more heads and a huge number of people who take part in events and support the work of the collective. The focus of 6Heads is innovation towards sustainability, and this can encompass anything from trapeze workshops as a means of exploring liminal space to taking part in hackathons or the Climate Finance Accelerator.

Monday was their six year anniversary celebration, themed around ‘Unlocking the Impossible’, and was a celebration of what can – and is – being achieved by people in all areas of business to effect real and positive change in challenging areas. We kicked off with a Q&A session with John Elkington (founder of the ENDS report, visiting professor of sustainability and executive chairman of Volans) and Tom Burke (chairman of E3G) about how to bring about a more sustainable world. Tom’s compelling point of view is that we don’t have a technology, economic or a policy problem holding us back – what we mostly have is a political problem, as successive governments simply fail to grasp that a more sustainable world manifestly in both the national and global interest. John agreed that the policy element of change has not been as effective as it could be, but pointed to change-makers such as Elon Musk as giving great hope for the kinds of exponential leaps that are required if we are to deal with the problem of 10 or 11 billion people all sharing one small planet.

It’s impossible to do justice to these speakers in a short blog post, but I was particularly inspired by Tom Burke’s reference to us needing to find the ‘better angels of our nature’, a phrase from the Gettysburg Address. John also pointed out that it might be necessary at times to buy our way to a better future, citing Nye Bevan’s approach of ‘stuffing their mouths with gold’ to overcome opposition to the creation of the NHS, as well as the government’s compensation to slave owners for giving up the practice of slavery, for the staggering sum of £23m – which would be well into the billions in today’s money.

Following these two inspiring speakers, four tables discussed four themes – finance and funding models, retail, education and accountability, with key speakers from Marks and Spencer, Deutsche Bank, Imperial College and Client Earth, and supported by others from a range of inspiring start-ups and initiatives – too many to write about each one individually, but we heard from Ooho!NeighbourlyShareActionDignity PlatformEnrol YourselfCreators ClubFuture FitCertified B Corporations, and More United.

Unfortunately I had to run away and catch a train straight afterwards, which was a shame as I would have loved to stay and chat to all the interesting and interested people. However the wave of positivity and energy that existed in the room stayed with me all the way home, which is an impressive feat on the late train from Paddington to Bristol.

If you want to know more about 6Heads or any of the organisations listed here to help, support or just find out more, then do follow the links and get in touch – they’d all love to hear from you.


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