Headlines, soundbites, the clamorous social media, it is increasingly difficult to find space and time for in-depth, reflective discussion and debate on issues that matter. At St George’s House we strive to fill that gap. Our annual programme of consultations creates space and time for people to grapple with a range of nationally and internationally significant topics. Space and time for people to argue cogently and listen carefully. Space and time for people to disagree civilly, find common ground, test each other’s intellectual position, perhaps even reach consensus.
At the core of our mission is the wish to nurture wisdom through dialogue, which often means working through difficult issues to find ways in which those issues might be made less intractable. Leadership is at the heart of what we do, thought leadership in our consultations, practical leadership in our Society of Leadership Fellow. We facilitate this work in two ways: through twenty-four hour residential consultations, with participants staying in the grounds of Windsor Castle overnight; and through our online presence, currently in development, where we can gather people virtually. In either forum, participants work through a carefully calibrated programme focused on debate and discussion.
There are three distinct strands to the consultation programme: Social and Ethical Consultations; Clergy Consultations; and Consultations programmed by external groups and organisations committed to the ethos and practice of the House. Add to this the regular Society of Leadership Fellows Conversations and you have an organisation putting its unique facilities and location to full and good use in our society.
We welcome enquiries from organisations or groups who might wish to use the House for such events.
What we offer
St George’s House, set within the grounds of Windsor Castle, provides a secluded, comfortable and relaxed environment where people can think and speak freely about key issues facing contemporary society. Think of the House as a physical and intellectual space where topics that matter can be dealt with by people willing to make a difference. We invite our guests to work hard while they are with us but also to enjoy the historic surroundings, to partake of Evensong and to experience a guided tour of St George’s Chapel. Our accommodation within the Castle grounds is comfortable and our food is fast acquiring a reputation for excellence.
Who can take part?
Participation in our programme is by invitation. A typical consultation will bring together a range of people who can make a genuine contribution to the discussion, often representing opposing points of view. We welcome people of influence, people in leadership positions, people from right across society. We strive to be representative whether in age, background, race, religion, gender or occupation. All our guests are equal under the banner of the consultation. They are people knowledgeable about the topic, prepared to argue cogently and listen carefully. We take considered advice when putting together a consultation precisely so that we can make the event as focused, dynamic and useful as possible.
A chance to take risks
A St George’s House consultation is not primarily about reaching consensus, welcome though that is, but what we seek above all is high-quality disagreement. We want people to be forthright, to think the unthinkable. We look to participants to argue their case and hear other points of view, to persuade and be persuaded. We ask anyone coming to the House to be prepared to reflect deeply on the various opinions expressed and to have the courage to admit that long-held views might be wrong. A participant at a St George’s House consultation should be prepared to change their mind and certainly to leave us better informed about the topic under discussion. In that way we can properly nurture wisdom through dialogue.
What happens afterwards?
A consultation is a process. Networks are established, friendships made, knowledge and understanding acquired. Much of what can be achieved is not measurable but nonetheless has a life beyond the time-span of the consultation. More tangibly, many of our consultations will result in a report summarising the discussions and outlining the conclusions. Such reports are only written with the agreement of the participants. The St George’s House Protocol ensures that all opinions are non-attributable and we ask participants to respect this protocol in the wider world. Any consultation reports will be available, if appropriate, on our website.