YAS members reflect on new Cross-Pollinating Perspectives project pilot

|

This article provides a breakdown of the experiences from the participants of the first event of the Cross-Pollinating Perspectives Project. The purpose of this project is to allow members of the Young Academy to learn more about different fields of delivery with a view to both engaging with new material but also broadening critical thought in terms of how we work with others.

In starting this project, there was a recognition that we often validate our thoughts and experiences with those who have a similar perspective. This view cuts across demographic characteristics, yet it also relates to our professional circles where we exist within specific sectors; public, private, academic, and societal. To build consensus around solutions for societal challenges, there is a need to explore how we adopt best practice from a range of views. Rather than simply disseminate intelligence, we must look to engage with a wider audience and exchange intelligence.

This project cuts across both the Equity and Exchange Grand Challenges, as we seek to share knowledge and actively reach out to individuals who are often left behind in conversations which don’t directly relate to their experiences.

The first event identified was the Scotonomics festival held in Dundee, with a view to exploring the role of the economy as a cross cutting concept. We have used the Gibbs reflective cycle with a view to allowing a consistent means of comparison across members.

As the project moves forward, we will look to identify our next event based on the preferences of the participants and where we can collectively develop our knowledge. You can learn more about the individuals by clicking on their pictures through to their Linkedin profiles.

 

 

Vitalii Diakov

Description of the experience

Attending the Scotonomics festival in Dundee on the 22nd of March was an enlightening experience, particularly as it served as a pilot for Cross Pollinating Perspectives. The event brought together a diverse group of stakeholders including politicians, economists, academics, and community leaders. Working now in the third sector, I know what difficulties the sector and local communities face. Having a legal background, I want to broaden my understanding of the Scottish economy and what is the role of the third sector.

Feelings and Thoughts

I felt both excited and a bit frustrated. While the event was intellectually stimulating, I found it difficult to follow the complexity of some economic concepts discussed. This made me realize the importance of preparations for the conference. The session “Demolition of the Social Contract” made me feel hopeless about the social crisis and its impact on people displaced by the war.

Evaluation

The Scotonomics festival provided a valuable platform for interdisciplinary exchange and learning. Raised topics gave us valuable insights and broadened our understanding of the impact on society. However, the event fell short of addressing the specific needs and challenges of the local communities. I noticed the absence of discussions on local challenges and practical solutions. Despite this, the discussions on stage were engaging, though at times challenging due to the technical nature of the discussions.

Analysis

Engaging before the conference helped the group to use networking opportunities. It gave us time to know each other better. The reflection cycle helped to maximize the learning experience and look for improvements. Engaging with people outside of my usual social circles during the conference was enriching and exciting. It was a rare opportunity to have such a varied group in one room.

Conclusions

The festival offered valuable insights and networking opportunities, it also highlighted areas for improvement. We should be more aware to keep discussions accessible for local communities because they drive changes. It also needs to pay attention to inclusivity, ensuring that the voices and needs of all stakeholders are heard.

Action Plan

Having a cross pollinating group is a great opportunity to clarify issues you don’t understand or discussion questions you don’t have the opportunity to ask during the conference. I am looking forward to collaborating with my colleagues to raise my awareness from different perspectives and share my experience.

 

Jamie Cooper-Higgins

Description of the experience

My experience was different to the rest of the group as I was unable to attend in person. I instead watched the recorded versions of the panel sessions. I felt somewhat frustrated by that experience primarily because I would have liked to pose questions to the panel and didn’t always agree with their perspective. I did enjoy the experience of the project more broadly – spending time learning about a field that I have adjacent curiosity in but is not my main field of work.

Feelings and Thoughts

I feel like it would have been ideal to attend in person with the rest of the group, to share ad hoc reflections as we went, and to fully immerse myself in the content. I thought it was an excellent event choice and that the chosen talks were accessible and suited the group. I did find myself thinking through the talks that we need to have much more of this kind of information and discourse within our normal education system – how money works is so fundamental to all our work.

Evaluation

I’ve studied consumer behaviour for over a decade in industry, and the sessions around ‘Demolition of the Social Contract’ and ‘Media Coverage of the Economy’, made me think about how much economic forces drive behaviour and sentiment within society, but also how little it is understood by nearly all in society. There’s such an underlying frustration especially since the Great Financial Crisis about stagnating living standards in the UK, but I’m not sure that frustration is always directed in the right direction by most of us, because we don’t know which levers to pull.

Analysis

I thought it was a good event overall, although I was struck throughout by clear bias from nearly all the panellists. The discussions were great and forceful, but I think it would have been beneficial to have more counterweights in political and ideological perspectives.

Conclusions

I’m glad this project has got off the ground with this pilot. I didn’t personally take a huge amount from the event myself – but that’s because I have familiarity with core concepts from my time in banking and in business more generally. If I were to put myself in the shoes of someone from an unrelated discipline, I think it would have been really eye-opening – and that’s the important part of the reflection for me – how we need to bring this type of economic thinking and discussion into mainstream debate.

Action Plan

I haven’t taken any specific personal actions following the event – perhaps because I already read peripherally around the subject. For the project more broadly, I think it’s important we spend time as a group reflecting on our experience collectively, and think of ways to codify the experience so it’s easier for other members of YAS to get involved and/or incite their own Cross-Pollenating Perspectives projects.


Ourania Varsou

Description of the Experience

From my perspective, as a novice in the realm of economics and its terminology, the first day of the festival delved into complex yet pertinent economic topics. I will refrain from discussing these in detail, as I might not do them justice. However, I think it is important to mention that although the event’s goals and programme were outlined on its website, experiencing it firsthand brought a new perspective to my thinking. The exploration of orthodox (mainstream) and heterodox (non-mainstream) economic theories, the demystification of economic terms, and the focus on real-world Scottish and wider UK economic challenges provided a comprehensive look at economics that was both educational and enlightening.

Feelings and Thoughts

Approaching an event cantered on economics, a field very much outside of my comfort zone, was initially daunting. Anticipating a barrage of complex jargon and abstract theories, I was pleasantly surprised by the festival’s approachability in terms of the speakers and attendees, and its relevance to my field. The effort to demystify economic terminology and relate discussions to tangible Scottish and UK-wide issues like renewable energy and social inequality made the experience far more engaging than expected. This alignment of expectations with reality significantly enhanced my appreciation for economics as a vital, accessible discipline.

Evaluation

The festival excelled in making economic discussions relatable and understandable, emphasising community engagement and the practical application of economic theories to Scottish and UK challenges. However, the dense nature of some topics might still pose barriers to complete understanding for those entirely new to economics. The online and in-person format broadened accessibility, though there perhaps remained a challenge to fully captivate the virtual audience as much as the physical one. For instance, I am not sure if I would have understood or followed some of the discussions if I were not immersed in the physical space, observing nuances such as the speakers’ body language and listening to other attendees.

Analysis

The success of the first day in demystifying economics could be attributed to its comprehensive approach; combining theoretical discussions with practical, real-world contexts specific to Scotland and the UK. This approach aligns well with educational strategies from other disciplines, including my own field of anatomical sciences, where practical application enhances understanding and retention. Improvements could be made by integrating more interactive elements, allowing for Q&A formats at the end of the talks and panel discussions.

Conclusions

Attending the opening night of the “Demystifying Scotland’s Economy” festival was an enlightening experience, underscoring the importance of economics. I learned that economics is not just about complex models and theories, but also about their impact on real people and places with tangible example not so far from home.

Action Plan

From the perspective of the YAS cross-pollination project, creating short pre-event materials or a glossary for future events with key terms introducing basic concepts could help unfamiliar members gain more from their experience. In terms of the event itself, engaging with local communities to identify topics of particular interest or concern could tailor the event more closely to the audience’s needs, enhancing both relevance and impact.

Brian Connolly

Description of the experience

The event chosen to pilot the Cross Pollinating Perspectives project was the Scotonomics festival held in Dundee over the weekend of the 22nd to 24th March. Working in economic development, I have regularly sought out experiences to broaden my knowledge of the field and felt this experience offered a useful platform to share current thinking. This event provided a useful combination of speakers, covering academics, activists, economists, policymakers and politicians, offering members the broadest range of perspectives with relevance to their own disciplines. As a group, we decided to prioritise the opening night, both for range of contributors and the practical nature of availability.

 

Feelings and Thoughts

I felt excited about attending this type of event, partly to engage with attendees and also to learn more about the roots of economic thinking in relation to my own work. The opportunity to re-engage in some of the theoretical positioning was more challenging than expected, having completed my studies in this area several years back. In addition, my own views on economic theory often seek to challenge the paradigm which continues to dictate academic and policy positioning. Yet I feel most speakers offered relatively accessible and informal content, addressing the audience on the night.

Evaluation

In a practical context, the split in the venues on the Friday proved a challenging element to negotiate with a personal desire to engage across the range of available content. Turning up early to the main location offered a great opportunity to network and learn more about those attending. The venue worked well and the opening speech from the leader of the Council helped frame the festival and its desired outcomes. I think the range of speakers offered balance of thought, although things felt slightly rushed near the end of the final session.

Analysis

Reflecting on the final programme, I feel that offering a recording of the Lesley Riddoch sessions would have been helpful given the conflict in timetabling and is something I would happily go back and watch. The session exploring the Complex Dynamic Economy seemed dense in content and arguably made assumptions around a grasp of deeper theoretical positioning. This is something I would have considered in terms of engagement and connecting with the audience early on. I feel however the informal nature of the event reflected an attempt to broaden discussion and make things seem more accessible. I feel an attempt to build in more time to hear from attendees would be useful.

Conclusions

Despite working in the field of economic development, I feel there was a great deal to learn. The debate regarding issues such as how Government finances work and the representation of the field in the media, were genuinely insightful. I am reminded of the challenge in changing the discourse around what a successful economy looks like and the over-riding belief in neoliberal economic practice. The sessions offered some practical examples of how change is possible and where we can seek to look beyond the discipline for answers.

Action Plan

As we look forward, there is a recognition this event acts as our pilot with a view to engaging in similar events across the specialisms of all those participating. I am looking forward to reflecting on the journey of  YAS members and how we improve this process. In addition, I feel there is a need to understand how we practically communicate beyond our “tribes” and use this project to understand where interdisciplinary approaches to learning increase the range of voices involved in the exchange of intelligence.