Andy Haldane, former chief economist at the Bank of England, has been described as a “rising star in central banking” and later listed by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. agents of change who want to solve the great challenges of our time.
As the new chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, he is preparing to travel to Ireland on Saturday for his first overseas event since taking office, but will first have to navigate the labor strike. British Railways to catch his flight to Liege.
A minor issue, given the challenges he says we face and the scale of change we need to embrace.
“Among the many areas I want us to focus on is how we rethink the ecology we have for education, learning and skill development,” he says.
“It seems very likely that every country on the planet will have to rethink this model, a model that has served us well for the past 100 years but will not serve as well for the next 100 years.
“Education should be something we do throughout our lives. This is not just a young person’s quest – it will have to be truly lifelong.
“The things we need to learn will change, the skill sets and attributes we need for the jobs of tomorrow will also go through radical reform.
“Of course, the AI will eat up some of the existing tasks and jobs, and we’ll need a different skill set to stay ahead of the machine.
“But I hope that RSA can play a global role in shaping and guiding and indeed implementing these changes in our education system, our skills building model for meet the needs of the 21st century.”
This is just one of the areas he is focusing on as he sets out to reinvigorate the RSA and promote its work and membership in Ireland. The environment and sustainability will also feature prominently.
The RSA was founded in London in 1754 to work on projects to improve Britain. He focused in the early years on awarding prizes for new ideas, works of art and inventions, including a new sweeping brush that helped end the practice of child sweeping.
Between 1757 and 1835 he led a campaign to encourage landowners to plant more trees. An estimated 60 million have been planted. Charles Dickens became vice-president of the RSA and Benjamin Franklin was its founding father in the United States.
More recently, it has awarded its medals to people like Nelson Mandela, Sir Frank Whittle, who is credited with inventing the turbojet engine, and Professor Stephen Hawking.
Today he has some 30,000 fellows in 90 countries around the world, including Ireland, but his work is not widely known. Andy hopes to change that.
He joined the Bank of England in 1989, where he worked in monetary analysis and monetary policy strategy, with a secondment to the International Monetary Fund.
In 2009 he was the central bank’s executive director for financial stability, and in 2014 he was its chief economist, chairing the industrial strategy board from 2018 to early 2021.
Candid and blunt, he said Occupy protesters were right to criticize the financial sector, he tried to persuade bankers and politicians “to behave in a more moral way”, and in the wake of the global banking crisis , he told the BBC that public anger was justified, pointing out that in 2006 bankers’ pay had risen to four times what it was in 1980.
He resigned from the Bank of England at the start of 2021 and then took up his post at the RSA, before being appointed head of Boris Johnson’s Leveling Up task force, to coordinate post-pandemic strategy to “build back better” from the British Prime Minister.
But public service has always been at the heart of its action.
“I have seen myself as a civil servant throughout my life. It’s something I felt very early on, not just in my career, but in my life,” he says.
“When I was 13 or 14, I decided I was interested in how to make sense of things in the economy, in the society that wasn’t working well, and I wanted to do something about that. topic. So my career has been framed by that – working on how to make the economy better for people.
“And in some ways, although it’s a different institution, it’s the same kind of work at RSA – it’s still a public service, but on a slightly wider range of issues.
“What has changed are the sets of social issues that I believe are most important for the growth of our societies, the growth of our economies – the regeneration of the three Ps – people, place and planet .
“It’s not just what the economy needs, but what a society needs.”
Against the backdrop of a global threatening climate crisis, war in Ukraine, Brexit, spiraling inflation and a cost of living crisis, Andy accepts that we have cause to worry.
He is slow to comment on the strain of Brexit on Anglo-Irish relations, but says it has never been more important to forge ties not just between the UK and Ireland, but globally.
“We are essentially grappling with the same headwinds, the same economic, societal, environmental challenges,” he says.
And he believes that the RSA, through participatory or deliberative democracy techniques like citizens’ assemblies, can bring together people from different backgrounds and walks of life, people with different perspectives, to deliberate on key societal issues, then deciding what to do about them, stressing that the impacts of the crises we face will be felt disproportionately “by the poorest people in the poorest places.”
“The cost-of-living crisis will hit those places and the people in those places who were the worst off to begin with the hardest,” he says.
“So yeah, we have a lot to do, but in some ways it’s the same plate. And that makes the imperative for action even greater.
Action is a key word for Andy who repeatedly stresses that the RSA is not a think tank – it is about thinking and talking leading to real action, reading social change.
“Social action happens most effectively at the local level, where like-minded and energetic people come together and make things happen, they don’t wait for the government to decide,” he says.
“They get along and make things happen in their local communities.”
“It doesn’t need to be changed on a massive scale. It can be something at the neighborhood level, maybe at the city level, but also at the city or country level, depending on the idea.
“Some of the most sweeping and lasting changes are happening at the local or hyperlocal level, where people can see the fruits of the actions they take.”
This approach could help solve a big problem – an agency crisis – where people feel they have lost power over their lives.
He also hopes the RSA can help unlock the potential of ‘naturally entrepreneurial’ Gen X and Millennials – to find and help ‘excluded entrepreneurs’.
“We can provide the network, we can provide the mentors, we might even be able to help find that seed funding. It can turn an excluded entrepreneur into a real entrepreneur – and it could be a social entrepreneur rather than a business entrepreneur,” he says.
“And that might put some people on a completely different branch of the tree of life.”
He is looking forward to RSA’s free one-day lecture, Place, Belonging and Reconnecting, at the Triskel Arts Center in Cork on Saturday.
Tony Sheehan, Triskel Artistic Director, RSA Fellow and one of the conference organisers, said: “We want to provide a space to reconnect with each other and develop exciting new relationships. And equally important, explore how we can stay relevant across the island of Ireland and make connections.
The conference will include a lecture by poet Tom McCarthy on how the RSA ‘rescued’ famed Cork artist James Barry, as well as panel discussions featuring broadcaster Philip King, travel advocate Brigid Carmody, l former Speaker of the House of Cork, Paula Cogan, President of the MTU. Teacher. Maggie Cusack, Dr Naomi Masheti from the Cork Migrant Center and Leon Diop, co-founder of Black and Irish.