Nestled on the cobbled stones of Langley Street, in the heart of Covent Garden, The Conduit is a members club with a difference. A five-storey home for people who are passionate about driving social change. The unavoidable effects of the pandemic forced The Conduit to close its doors on its original location in Mayfair, sidestepping into a virtual offering for members, whilst it hop scotched to a new location. As we have crept out from under the covers of Covid, The Conduit’s mission has become even more vital to its loyal community. It’s one thing to roll out of bed onto a 9am Zoom call, but “e-meetings” are no replica for a real life connection. As individuals we have desperately needed to come back to a space to convene, a space to converse, a space to connect.
The Conduit’s co-founder, Paul Van Zyl’s original theory for the club remains steadfast. As humans, we don’t want to go somewhere and sit in silo. Paul’s purpose has always been to foster ways for members to interact with one another, creating a space that will ignite sparks of positive action towards the infinite list of global challenges that the world currently faces. For us to genuinely get to grips with the globe we need to be able to congregate between four walls, to be able to sense the energy in the room and respond to the shifts in our companions body language.
Paul Van Zyl sits at the very heart of The Conduit. A human rights lawyer by training, Paul was picked by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to be executive secretary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He went on to co-found the International Centre for Transitional Justice, a New York based human rights organisation, and he has also been named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Not content with this CV, Paul has experience creating a luxury fashion brand, working with artisans around the world to create products infused with traditional design and culture. All of this is to say that Paul wears many hats and came to recognise that one industry or focus area cannot work effectively if it is alone. Innovation and progress comes from working together and establishing a community who believe that business can be a force for positive change. If you offer individuals a space to convene and then provide them with inspiring and thought-provoking content, then they might together co-create solutions.
Each floor at The Conduit serves a different purpose, each one hums to a slightly different tune. You’ll find corners where members are quietly plotting how to improve social justice, a vibrant bar mixing Conduit Margaritas for those debating the best approach to fostering positive tipping points in the fight against climate change and in The Forum a panel discussion on sustainable fashion and the future of textiles – just examples of the diverse subject matters that reverberate here! The Conduit hosts around 200 events every year, split across eight thematic areas, each with a clear ethical angle: racial equity; climate action and a sustainable future; education, learning and development; employment and economic opportunity; diversity, equity and inclusion; peace and justice; health, nutrition and wellbeing; arts and culture.
There is a revolving schedule of leading experts coming in to talk to members about their work in these areas. The list of speakers on Langley Street already includes the likes of Selfridges Chairman Alannah Weston, pioneering scientist Dr Suzanne Simard, journalist Christina Lamb and Conduit Member and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala. It is often at these world-class and value driven events, habitually followed by intimate dinners and community networking, that the connections between members and guests happen. Up to the Rooftop Terrace for wood-fired pizzas, made using artisan flour, or down to Warehouse, The Conduit’s public facing restaurant. Although sustainability and seasonality is at the core of Warehouse, the food is beautifully executed by Head Chef Brendan Eades – creative, innovative and expertly balancing between desire and ethics. A balance that flows throughout the building. The Conduit is a space that brims with hope and stories of impact. A journey up the stair case will have you bump into a whole host of enthusiastic individuals on a mission to create change. Tackling the world’s greatest problems might feel like a huge mountain to climb and it can be a lonely journey for those taking it on. Yet The Conduit’s positivity is a huge part of its appeal – it sees the problem and then thinks about how it can catalyse connections that will act and solve. Who knows what valuable creativity and innovation can stem from bringing unlikely fellows together in one space. There is a shared language and sense of possibility at The Conduit, but it recognises that a joyful environment plays a huge role in inspiring communities and generating change. Convene, connect, create.