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Workshops provide a new form of public debate

Published: 22 October 2021 at 12:00

Lord Ashcroft Building in Cambridge

ARU’s Creating our Future events tackle three major issues facing society today

Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) is hosting a series of special public workshops in November called Creating our Future, which will ask participants to discuss some of the most pressing problems facing society and then deliver a set of recommendations to politicians including Chelmsford MP Vicky Ford and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor Dr Nik Johnson.

In the style of a Citizens’ Assembly, the free online workshops, which are part of the national Being Human Festival, are fully interactive and aim to promote a new, more collaborative form of public debate.

Beginning on Monday, 15 November, each 90-minute Creating our Future workshop – covering the future of food, work, and the city – will involve a briefing from academics and business leaders about the challenges faced, followed by Citizens’ Assembly style ‘debating chambers’. 

Participants will split into smaller groups to discuss the issues and arrive at a set of recommendations, which they will then feed back to the politicians.

The Creating our Future series is a collaboration between ARU’s Global Sustainability Institute (GSI) and Philosophy department, and is connected to an ongoing project by Dr Michael Wilby called Revitalising the Public Sphere.

Dr Wilby, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said:

“I believe we’re at a crossroads in public life. Three things are likely to require us to change our societies in fundamental ways: the climate crisis, the changes in lifestyle and work patterns brought about from Covid, and the changes that accompany the digital revolution, including AI.  Food, work and the city are three cornerstones of our common lives, and it is crucial to look at how these will adapt.

“We hope that attendees will, first of all, come to a fuller understanding of these important topics, but we also hope that attendees will get a glimpse of another way of engaging in democratic debate about important issues. 

“Public debate is often marred by polarisation and acrimony, and we hope that our workshops will show that it doesn’t have to be like that.  There are ways of engaging in public dialogue that are informed and consensus-driven, and we hope these workshops show that important topics can be discussed openly and vigorously, with a view to enhancing the common good. 

“We will be asking not just how food, work and the city will operate in the future, but also how they should operate in the future, and that requires democratic deliberation: the chance to think through and rationally discuss the options available. The workshops are called Creating our Future because we believe we can be the architects of our future, and we need to be thinking now about how these key areas should be shaped for the years to come.”

The Creating our Future series begins with the Future of Food, on Monday, 15 November, followed by the Future of Work (Wednesday, 17 November), and the Future of the City (Saturday, 20 November). 

To see the full list of academic, business, and political participants, and to reserve a place at these free events, please visit the links below.