Van Zyl’s Conduit for change

Posted on 26th September 2018

Written by Julian Blake, Editor at DigitalAgenda

This month in London, a new private members club with a difference opens its doors. The Conduit has been created to bring people together on a mission for social change. In a new podcast, Conduit co-founder Paul van Zyl explains his thinking – and talks about his life fighting injustice.

Can a private members club really help change the world? Such establishments are not normally known for their sense of altruism – and if there is a social purpose it’s more often of the partying kind.

The Conduit is looking to change all that. Set in the heart of London’s Mayfair, the club has been set up “as a home for a diverse community of people passionate about social change”.

The club’s creative driver, Paul van Zyl, is far from a Mayfair nightlife dandy. South Africa-born, he’s a big-hitting international human rights lawyer and social impact entrepreneur on a genine mission.

Raised during the apartheid era, van Zyl spent years actively opposing the regime that tainted that country for more than 40 years. When apartheid ended, van Zyl served as executive secretary of the country’s truth and reconciliation commission, from 1995-98.

Including his anti-apartheid work, van Zyl spent most of his career advocating for those with no voice. He has been recognised as a global leader for his work in social impact and transitional justice, and was chosen as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader in 2008.

So how will the new club help van Zyl to accelerate social purpose? He says the club can facilitate positive change in a stimulating environment conducive to collaboration and new ways of thinking.

Staying true to the conduit definition – ‘a channel for the transmission of ideas’ – the club will bring together social entrepreneurs, investors, creatives, business leaders, policy-makers and civil society, acting “as a catalytic platform for individuals tackling some of the most pressing challenges facing us today”.

A programme of activities will, adds the Conduit, “showcase solutions and engender a better understanding of the trends, opportunities and geo-political forces shaping our world.”

Van Zyl sees technology as having a key role in delivering social change – not least because it can deliver the change we all need, at scale. Solar, battery and mobile can accelerate change across the world, he says.

The van Zyl interview is the first in a series of new Digital Leaders podcasts, featuring conversations with key influencers in the UK’s digital transformation community.

In season one, the podcast hears from some of the UK’s most proactive digital leaders as they share their views on the importance of leadership in an evolving digital workforce and economy.

Conduit membership costs £1800 a year, with an £850 sign-up fee, though ‘social impact’ membership is open to people who spend most of their time working in the not-for-profit space for an £800 annual fee with £400 sign-up. 

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