In an era which is being defined by substantial political division, the backlash of big tech, and widening social inequalities – the Canary Wharf Group brought together those that are looking to shape the future of London and find solutions that are changing businesses and society for the better.
‘Changing Perceptions in a Divided Society’ was the first in a series of events that looked to the actions that are being taken to future proof the city against a backdrop of ongoing political turmoil and immediate threats to London’s global standing.
The morning’s discussion was introduced by Head of Leasing at Canary Wharf Group, Tarun Mathur – who shared with attendees the size, scale and ambitions of the new Wood Wharf development. Currently the largest regeneration project in London, Wood Wharf is set to become the home of 20,000 tech and creative businesses, and has been designed and built to create an environment that engages the local community and provides the space and infrastructure for inclusive growth.
Having welcomed guests and speakers, Tarun handed over to the event moderator, Peter Evans, Enterprise Editor at The Sunday Times – one of Britain’s leading business journalists and a reporter who actively reveals the stories of entrepreneurs across the UK economy that are doing things differently and championing a better economy.
Changing Perceptions in a Divided Society
“CEPHAS SPOKE OF HIS JOURNEY IN CREATING SEVERAL INFLUENTIAL MOVEMENTS AND THE PATH HE HAS TRODDEN IN BATTLING ISSUES OF MENTAL HEALTH AND BECOMING AN AGENT OF CHANGE IN SOCIETY”
Having introduced the themes of the day, Peter welcomed the first keynote speaker to the stage. Cephas Williams is the award-winning campaigner who created ‘56 Black Men,’ a movement that questions the prevailing representation of black men in society and the perceptions that are generated by negative stereotyping. Having studied architecture at university, Cephas also explores the relationship that the built environment has with the people that inhabit the space and champions local communities playing a more significant role in the development of the surrounding environment. Cephas spoke of his journey in creating several influential movements and the path he has trodden in battling issues of mental health and becoming an agent of change in society. Cephas concluded by taking questions from Peter Evans and revealing the practical means with which businesses can better engage with the issues that can cause divisions in society.
A Tech Sector that Works for Everyone
“PAUL MILLER, CEO OF BETHNAL GREEN VENTURES AND MIKE SAUNDERS, CO-FOUNDER OF COMMONPLACE, PASSIONATELY DESCRIBED THE OPPORTUNITY THAT LONDON HAS IN PIONEERING TECH FOR GOOD, RIGHTING THE WRONGS, AND AVOIDING THE PITFALLS THAT BIG TECH HAS ENCOUNTERED IN RECENT YEARS.”
Next, the event turned to Tech for Good and the role that technology is playing in society at large. Peter was joined by Europe’s leading investor in businesses that are using technology to tackle big social and environmental problems, along with an entrepreneur they have backed that is on a mission to transform community engagement with development projects. Paul Miller, CEO of Bethnal Green Ventures and Mike Saunders, co-founder of Commonplace, passionately described the opportunity that London has in pioneering Tech for Good, righting the wrongs, and avoiding the pitfalls that big tech has encountered in recent years. There was unanimous agreement that the growth incentive for creating and scaling technologies that change the world for the better was undeniable, and we are already seeing a greater emphasis placed upon having purpose at the centre of a business. There is no trade off – London can define itself as the international centre for tech entrepreneurs creating profit with purpose.
The Imperative of Diversity in the Financial Services and Tech
“CATHERINE SPOKE OF THE NEED TO RECOGNISE THE IMPORTANCE THAT MIGRANT WORKERS HAVE IN THE ECONOMY – AND THE CRITICAL IMPACT THAT SKILLED OVERSEAS TALENT HAS IN SPURRING THE TECH COMMUNITY ON AND CREATING GROWTH.”
To wrap up the morning, Catherine Wines took to the stage for the final keynote address. Catherine is the founder of WorldRemit – one of Britain’s standout tech unicorns, now valued at over $900million – and a leading voice within the tech sector as a campaigner of greater inclusivity in tech. Catherine spoke of the need to recognise the importance that migrant workers have in the economy – and the critical impact that skilled overseas talent has in spurring the tech community on and creating growth. Catherine highlighted the need to share the message that Britain is open and welcoming to migrants, and that our ability to successfully deploy an immigration policy that supports the tech community will prove critical to wider economic prosperity for Britain.
As the first of the ‘Changing Perceptions’ event series drew to a close, the audience was left with a final reminder that times have changed and are demanding that we reimagine how we do business.