As we approach 2018, we caught up with another of our incredible 2017 speakers, Jamie Cooke, to hear about his TEDx experience and how things have changed for him since. Here is what he had to say…
I’ve always enjoyed public speaking. I find it a thrill to engage with audiences and to explore ideas, to see the response you get, good or bad, to the concepts you are pitching. As Head of RSA Scotland I carry out a lot of speaking and media engagements, to a wide variety of audiences and contexts. Yet I’ll admit that even I felt a bit daunted walking out onto the stage for TEDxGlasgow 2017.
Held, for the first time, in its new home at the Armadillo, it brought together over 1,800 enquiring minds to listen to a diverse mix of inspirational speakers. And me. Going on stage second last, following a range of thought provoking folk covering very different topics, was a real buzz but nerve wracking too. It was a push to use the time I had with this audience to share my idea with them.
And, that is why I was on that stage. TEDxGlasgow is a truly unique chance to share your ideas, experiences and passions with a huge audience, both in the room and those who watch online afterwards – who can be located all over the globe. It is a chance to connect, to provoke, to stimulate, and from that to drive forward change.
I was there to talk about Basic Income, an old idea which is finding huge relevance in the world we are in today. The idea is that each citizen would receive a regular, secure and unconditional payment from the state, providing them with security in their life and autonomy over decisions of work. It can seem a radical idea at first glance, but in a world where work is changing dramatically; where AI and automation offer huge challenges and opportunities; where we are ever more globally connected; and where our social security system is failing people it is an idea for our time. And definitely an idea of the type that TEDxGlasgow looks for – provocative and challenging, with a desire to change the world for the better.
2017’s theme was Lead or Follow, and my experiences in the months since the event have demonstrated that this was a real question and challenge to the participants, and not just a catchy title.
The momentum around Basic Income has been significant in Scotland – from a position of discussing it as an interesting idea, we have moved to four Local Authorities publicly committing to piloting the idea within their areas. In September of this year, we had the biggest breakthrough to date, when the First Minister announced in the Programme for Government that the Scottish Government would be supporting piloting in Scotland. This was huge – I was in the US at the time, and the response from colleagues in America to the news that our Government was willing to support experimentation and innovation was great to see. Scotland, as a nation, is choosing to Lead, to respond to the world as it is and as it will be, rather than remaining fixed in the one that once was. This isn’t a given – the temptation of inertia is a significant one when faced with ever faster change and adaptation, yet it is a chance for us to create the new world that TEDxGlasgow challenged us to imagine.
Speaking at TEDxGlasgow has had a number of direct impacts to my life and work. The reach of the talks is phenomenal, and opens up key opportunities. I was then invited to be the keynote speaker at the Herald Society Awards, directly on the back of my talk – the organiser had stumbled across it while looking for a speaker and brought me in on that. I have an event on Basic Income coming up in Bishopbriggs (where I live) because of someone who was in the audience on the day I spoke – he went back to his church to say they had to get involved in the discussion, which has kicked off a whole new area of exploration. And, my personal favourite recently was when in a conversation about Basic Income, someone very enthusiastically recommended my own TEDx talk to me, saying it was the best they had watched (clearly they had sensibly managed to block my face from their memory)!
This enthusiasm for the talk, has been a sign of how useful it has been as an educational and introductory resource for the topic. It has been used in talks and conversations, shared widely across Twitter, and used by a senior journalist to explain what Nicola Sturgeon was talking about when she launched the Programme for Government. The TEDx brand, and particularly the reputation of TEDxGlasgow, carries a prestige and seriousness with it that helps to open doors, that is recognised globally, and which connects you as a speaker into a wider community of thinkers.
So, what next? Well, from a Basic Income perspective we are moving from a position of talking to doing, a process of designing experiments for Glasgow and Scotland which can allow us to test whether this really is an idea for our time.
This is hugely exciting, a genuine chance for Scotland to lead the world, and a space which we want contributions, challenges and critiques in. I am lucky to be involved in that process, and to be able to connect with other folk involved across the globe – I will continue to use that opportunity to drive this idea forward. I am not content to see a Scotland where people are trapped in precarious lives, not sure about how to pay their bills or feed their families; where we miss out on opportunities due to lack of flexibility or adaptation; or where we forget the responsibilities we have to each other in society. Rather, I want to see a Scotland true to the roots of the Enlightenment, focussed on human potential, and where everyone is supported to grow and flourish.
So, if you are reading this wondering whether you should apply for the next TEDxGlasgow – stop thinking and get that application in! If you are lucky enough to be chosen to speak, then you will be engaging with some of the most enquiring minds in Scotland. It will be your chance to get your idea into the wider world, and to be a real agent of change. And most of all, no matter the nerves you may or may not feel, it will be one of the most powerful experiences you encounter, and the gateway to new opportunities and connections. So get your application in, and hopefully we’ll be seeing you at TEDxGlasgow 2018.