RENKEI Intercultural workshop at UCL

Intercultural workshop at UCL: Renaissance Entrepreneurship in Higher Education for Social Innovation to Develop Future Leaders – Dealing with Demographic Change

How can entrepreneurs help us achieve harmony between young and old?


Demographic change is affecting every country in the world. In some cases this creates a dynamic opportunity, but in others it presents a difficult economic challenge. 

In these circumstances, it is crucial to bring together ideas from different cultures and intellectual disciplines to create collaborative solutions that are more creative than those currently being discussed in the political realm through the perspective of Renaissance Entrepreneurialism. This is a process of developing innovative ways of combining many channels of knowledge – from the arts and sciences, cultures and histories, thoughts and technologies – to create a way of resolving a current challenge.


“To create social enterprises to maximise the potential of demographic change”

This RENKEI project aims to enable a group of students from the RENKEI universities to engage with each other to create working teams which explore the area of social demographic change and its consequences, such as intergenerational equity, or the potential of social enterprise as a means of responding to this challenge and an opening of minds to new ideas and ways of thinking.


Under the auspices of this RENKEI working group led by UCL and Osaka University, the first workshop was held at UCL in London between the 1st and 14th of August 2015.

The basic structure of the workshop was to spend the first week developing ideas around teamwork, thought, idea creation and creativity. The second week was about the development of ideas into what might become a social enterprise. 

The workshop developed exercises around thinking, entrepreneurship, creativity, project building, project planning and development, through group working and interactive activities. We also engaged an actor to create a different way of thinking about age – how different ways of speaking worked (or not) – how to say “No”, “Yes”, or “Yes, but”, and how this changed as the characteristics of older age begin to be introduced. So learning how to act as people in different age groups showed how things like communication really changed.

Within these overarching themes, the workshop was structured around the activities designed to tackle the broad issues of creativity, mind-opening and teamwork, with ‘provocations’ inserted at opportune moments to take advantage of the other activities and spark new thoughts about the substantive issues behind the workshop topics. These interventions were designed not to provide information to the participants – although undoubtedly they did that – but to move away from anything like the conventional learning experiences most of them were used to in the university. The speakers were asked to be provocative – to raise questions rather than provide answers – and to be very concise. The subject matter of the provocations was varied – implications of demographic change (intergenerational fairness), Renaissance then and now, entrepreneurship, education for a multidisciplinary world, big data – and they were inserted into the programme to create a stir amongst the participants and provide them with the opportunity to think about and practice the new thinking in their teamwork and creative activities.

The participants also visited a social enterprise transport company to find out how they responded to the challenge of acting for the community within a commercial and social world, how these interfaced, how the tensions between the different demands arose, and how they dealt with these tensions.

In the second week, the afternoons were used for the participants to create and generate their ideas for their social enterprises, which were pitched on day 10, revised, and presented in the final session on day 11.

The participants experienced the challenges and advantages of working in different-sized groups, with different people, with different challenges, outputs and targets. This set them up to be able to determine how they were going to tackle demographic change by creating a social enterprise to focus on a particular challenge they had identified.


In the end, three teams presented prospective ideas for their social enterprises.

  • Vampere – an energy-saving device to reduce energy costs
  • Renaissance Homes – an innovative housing scheme to capitalize on vacant properties to create suitable accommodation for old and young people
  • 7Es – a social networking platform to share knowledge, create a sharing economy, and share developments to change the world for the better

These teams have set out to continue their relationships in the forthcoming year by setting up communications links, including regular Skype meetings, in order to pursue their ideas in preparation for the next workshop in Osaka, Japan in August 2016.


  • University College London (UCL)
  • Osaka University