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Could this ‘Glastonbury for Good’ truly make a difference?’

Words by Amy Packham

It’s been dubbed a ‘Glastonbury for Good’ – but scrap the tents, and instead picture yourself at the Eden Project in Cornwall. 

The epic global garden – dubbed the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ by some – is, this November, home to Anthropy: what its founder, John O’Brien calls a “launchpad for change”.

Anthropy, which takes place from 2 - 4 November, is a gathering of people who have influence, who have a desire to change how our world operates, and a thirst for good. 

“We’re looking at the longer-term vision of our world,” John O’Brien MBE tells me. “We’re thinking, actually, we need to be able to hand this bit of the world on in a better state than we inherited ourselves. It’s really about trying to help shape what younger people, and their children, are likely to inherit.”

Anthropy was a lockdown lightbulb moment for John. In January 2021, after spending 30 years in business, he looked back on the first year of Covid – the loss of life, the damaged economy – and thought we could do better. “I thought, we need a national forum where we can build back better,” he says.

"I thought, we need a national forum where we can build back better."

John thought about Davos, and the fact global leaders go there and have important, powerful conversations. He wanted to create that space here in the UK. He made two what he calls “risky” decisions, after sharing his ideas with people he trusted: one was to host the event in Cornwall, not London, and the other was to crowdsource the agenda. 

“Over 12 months, I had 200 organisations looking at what we wanted to talk about to move forward our thinking,” he says. “It was the largest ever crowdsourced agenda in the UK, that has led to 160 sessions with 300 speakers over 14 stages at the Eden Project.”

So what are John’s hopes for Anthropy and beyond?

“It’s not just the event, it’s the impact that comes out of it,” he says.

“I want people to come away thinking they’ve seen something and listening to something inspiring, or spoken to people they wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to interact with.”

John hopes people will go away and change the way in which they do things – whether that’s in their community, or leading an organisation. “I want people to go back and try and influence and make an impact,” he adds. 

“The thing that most interested me is reflecting upon what will be the outcome – and to see that change happen.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partnership for the Goals.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs