Big institutions – what they do to people and why they need to change

We’re about halfway through our term exploring the culture at King’s. It continues to be a privilege to spend time meeting students, staff and faculty across the five campuses. And incredibly fulfilling to continue to debate, challenge, investigate and interrogate the ambitions of this project, the opportunities and the challenges at Kings, and our wider culture with, Nick and Laura, everyday artists and our research partners.

Over the last week we have met representatives from across the college – from new recruits to the organisational development team to students, a Dean to the team at the Cultural Institute, our partners in CMCI to KEA’s in different campuses.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on big institutions, what they do to people and how and why they need to change. It’s an obvious thing to say but the more people show up as themselves at King’s (or work or anywhere), the more I see the full potential of this project. At its best King’s College London is no more than the sum total of 33,000 ordinary and extraordinary lives contributing to college life. Scratch the surface, take away the titles, ignore the silos, dismiss the hierarchies and King’s is (unsurprisingly) an incredible proposition.

But big institutions seem to thrive on (or at least encourage) titles, empires, power, competition, departmental opposition, prestige and top-down leadership. Couple these factors with a Government-backed neoliberal agenda wedded to the notion of (frankly laughable) endless growth* and we have a challenging context within which to suggest a grassroots counter-cultural quiet revolution.

*Infinite growth in a finite world? – I’m no economist but when did we start to believe that unsustainable expansion was an attractive goal in a limited world of increasingly scarce resources?

This project seems to be more and more about revealing the real people who reside (in all their diversity at Kings). Regardless of where we meet people, if they are prepared to bring more of themselves, their true selves, to bear on the conversation, the greater the potential for a quiet creative revolution through this project. We should be encouraging people to ditch the masks, the badges, the titles, the positions, and the authority they bring to work in favour of bringing more of themselves.

This project is about encouraging the best side of individuals to show up at King’s. Regardless of position, or qualification, or salary, or size of office, or department. 33,000 Everyday Artists is about David and Nick and Katherine and Yvonne and every single one of the 33,000 who make up this extraordinary institution.

Reflections by David Micklem

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