Newsletter, February 2007
Contents this month
After a good few months of writing, drawing, re-writing, and re-drawing,
the sciencehorizons packs and website are now ready. 8 floors up
at the Royal College of Art, overlooking the Albert Hall, we held
a media launch with Science Minister Malcolm Wicks and a group
of 12 RCA students using our discussion packs for the first time.
The conversation was really rich. The group covered organ donation
('If we know we can grow spares, how does that change how
we treat our own organs'), Alzheimer's ('Does he have
a say in his own treatment?'), health insurance ('Who
can't have it, who can't afford it') and RFID (Radio Frequency
IDentification) tags ('If we put all our trust in security
technology, we become more fragile').
At one point, the Minister looked to the future and asked where
the equivalent of the iPod would be for Alzheimer's. One of the
students thoughtfully replied, 'I hope there isn't one. One
button for one problem is dangerous.' A useful reminder to
resist the temptation to simplify problems involving technology.
In 2007, we want as many people as possible to join
in, to help
us get an understanding of people's hopes and fears and help build
a picture of the complexity of some of these future challenges.
If you would like to run a discussion event with a local community
group, friends, colleagues, or family, you can now view all the
materials online and request them in hard copy from the website
or by emailing [email protected].
If you are interested in facilitating a larger public discussion
event please get in contact - we may be able to help with
marketing, facilitation or a contribution to the costs.
Also launched to the public this month was Drugsfutures, our project
with OPM for the Academy of Medical Sciences.
At the event at the Dana centre, the head of the Working Group
overseeing the project, Sir Gabriel Horn of Cambridge University,
started by saying that drugs for ill-health or to enhance the
brain are now coming along at a pace unimaginable even ten years
ago. That raises questions about who is in charge. To illustrate
the point, we saw a play about a young professional woman wrestling
with a decision about using pills to fight mild depression.
The session then went two ways: half of the participants held
discussions based on the play and more acts were performed later
on the basis
of what they said. The rest of us split up to discuss drugs and
the law, drugs in society, drugs and the young and drugs for mental
health, in two sessions led by medical journalist Geoff Watts.
There was a drop-in event about cognition enhancers - also
known as drugs for a smarter brain.
Computers terminals were available throughout the event so that
people could make brief comments and observations on the drugsfutures
blog, or answer more detailed questions in the online
We want to involve as many people as possible in the web activities
so do participate and pass this invitation on to anyone else you
feel may be interested.
For people who have been following the progress of the Sustainable
Development Commission’s Panel you will be pleased to hear
that the members of the Panel have now completed the first consultation
on redefining progress. The consultation was run over three stages
and the results will soon be available for the public to view via
the Sustainable Development Commission’s Panel pages (http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/pages/sd_panel.html).
Over 50% of the Panel members responded to the first stage of the
consultation, resulting in a second round of questions that were
more tightly focused on measuring wellbeing. The third stage of
the process invited feedback on the process and it is quite pleasing
for us to see that many people have embraced the virtual methods
with open arms. Stayed tuned for the next topic up for consultation
with Panel members…
As part of the development of a community plan for Richmond,
the Borough’s Local Strategic Partnership has put together
an online consultation which asks citizens to give their views
on a range of policy issues, covering the areas ‘A greener
and cleaner borough’, ‘Healthier communities, ‘A
safer and stronger borough’, ‘Children and young
people’ and ‘A vibrant and prosperous borough’.
For these areas, participants were asked to prioritise service
choices and then to give their views on what further might be
done to improve services.
Young people were targeted specifically by providing a separate
website which contained a shorter set of themes of particular
interest for this group, by involving several local schools,
and by publicising the launch of the consultation at several
events aimed at families with children across the borough.
This project is an excellent example of how the Internet can
be used to reach out to local people of all ages and involve
them in the development of their community. The consultation
has now gone into the second round, which allows participants
to read a summary report as well as to browse through the responses
received and to evaluate the consultation process.