Welcome to the archive site for Citizen Renaissance

Since publication as a WikiBook in early 2008, the world has of course moved on and dramatic events unfolded. But the book’s warnings on climate change, the dangers of uncontrolled corporate and political spin, and the likely emergence of ugly populism in the absence of ethical leadership have proved unerringly true. 

Citizen Renaissance’s underlying optimism about the potential for a new settlement between business, government and civil society, together with its Manifesto for Change, while tempered by events, remains relevant and potent today.

About the project

Citizen Renaissance was conceived as a collaborative project by environmental activist & campaigner Jules Peck, and Public Relations expert and CEO Robert Phillips in the spring of 2008 – on the eve of the global economic crisis and before The Big Society had really seen the light of day. 

Originally published as a WikiBook, Citizen Renaissance explores the collision of three seismic shifts of the time: the perfect storm surrounding Climate Change; the wellbeing imperative; and the axiomatic rise of digital democracy. At its heart lies a call for more citizen-centric thinking and behaviour and an end to the global imbalance of wants & needs. 

Citizen Renaissance was designed as a forum for thought; a platform for the exchange of ideas; and as a crowd-sourcing and wise crowd project, seeking to develop a collective Manifesto for Change. The original website was retired in 2013 – much of the thinking was later advanced in Robert Phillips’ 2014 book, Trust Me, PR is Dead and on the web platform of Jericho Chambers.

The future of communications – Public Engagement

The origins of Robert Phillips’ work on the future of communications and the (r)evolution of Public Relations can be traced to the initial thinking in Citizen Renaissance. As UK and then European CEO of the world’s largest Public Relations firm, Edelman, and Global Chair of its Future Strategies group, Robert developed the concept of Public Engagement – a new communications model for business, government and civil society. Quitting Edelman at the end of 2012 because, in his own words “he no longer believed in what he was doing”, Robert went on to publish the seminal Trust Me, PR is Dead (Unbound, 2014) and created Jericho Chambers, a boutique consultancy committed to helping corporates and large organisations navigate towards meaningful change and the common good.

Extract on communications from Citizen Renaissance (2008):

“The Communications Industry is facing its most profound challenge ever. Over the next decade, it will have to fully evolve to rise to the issues posed by today’s society. Current forms of mass communications will inevitably play a much smaller role in a world orientated around the needs and behaviours of a new generation of active Citizens.

“The challenge is driven by three seismic shocks which have shaken our world: the harsh realities of  Climate Change ; the emergent but inexorable rise of wellbeing economics; and the awesome reforming power of  digital democracy . A Citizen Renaissance is springing from the energy generated by the collision of these three shocks. Welcome to a world where we may all now have to learn to live within our means, in a truly responsible way, if we are to save both our planet and ourselves. And a great deal of evidence suggests that in fact we will end up happier as a result.

“The communications Industry, as constructed today, will need to re-configure in order to deal with the issues posed by Capitalism 3.0 – including a likely  re-alignment of wants and needs  (especially in the Global North) and the consequential truths of a lower consumption economy. A newly-empowered citizen demands openness, transparency and accountability – and may well hold governments, corporations and brands to account if they do not abide by the new rules of the game.

“We call this new model of communications Public Engagement. It is our contention that the advertising industry, as we see it today, is in serious decline and that, in time, what we currently call PR can evolve and ultimately enjoy a legitimate primacy among all the marketing disciplines. But, to many, the PR Industry itself is not yet fully fit-for-purpose. As we explore the journey from monologue to dialogue and into the economics of wellbeing, we also consider the core issues that PR must address if it is truly to emerge as a responsible, strategic discipline that can give responsible advice to responsible institutions, companies and brands.”

From Public Engagement to Public Leadership

“Milton Friedman is Dead” is one of the mantras that Robert helped embed during his time at Edelman – the urgent need for a shift away from the false primacy of shareholder value and towards a new, collaborative settlement between business, government and civil society.

A version of this article appeared in various guises between 2019 and 2012 alongside calls to embrace new models of citizen capitalism.

Likewise, in a further series of articles, Robert charted the inevitable rise of employee activism – and warned of the dangers of failing to listen to the message of Occupy: “we are the 99%”. 

Robert’s call for the reform of the Public Relations industry was signalled in a chapter contribution to Where The Truth Lies (ed. Julia Hobsbawm, Atlantic, 2010) – which itself captured much of the thinking mentioned above – and advanced in a series of articles and podcasts thereafter. An update on this thinking and the emergence of Public Leadership as a successor to Public Engagement and Public Relations, will be published within Reputation Management: The Future of Corporate Communications and Public Relations (ed. Tony Langham, Emerald, December 2018).

Work on Trust Me, PR is Dead started in the spring of 2013 and culminated in publication in late 2014/ early 2015. In the book, Robert called for new models of Public Leadership, accounted for through Public Value – the evolution of Public Engagement thinking.

Further Reading: Articles & Links

Recent articles and interviews with Robert Phillips on the so-called crisis of trust and the need for new models of communication:

The current (autumn 2018) state of the PR industry – podcast with The Holmes Report.

The on-going debate between “purpose” and profit and the piracy of PR – via Jericho Chambers

The truth about trust: why the so-called “crisis of trust” is mostly overblown – a lecture series

Earlier articles and publications appeared on-line and on the Edelman website, though these appear to have been removed since Robert’s departure from the firm. In addition to articles referenced above, a number of pamphlets were published on The Age of Engagement:

http://robertphillips.co.uk/archive/age-of-engagement/

http://robertphillips.co.uk/archive/the-age-of-engagement-part-two/

http://robertphillips.co.uk/archive/the-age-of-engagement-part-three/

Note of Thanks

Citizen Renaissance would never have been possible without the incredible support and endeavours of Arabella Bakker and Antoine Soussaline, to whom the authors are forever grateful.