After running events to do with social change issues in Southampton for three years, 40 people gathered together at By Sea Coffee Lounge on a Thursday evening in September to ask these questions. What has Dangerous Ideas Southampton been up? Was it worth it?
Suzanne Baker talked about the motivation for Dangerous Ideas Southampton. The original plan had been to bring people together and together find out about the people involved in hidden activity in the city. How are we all connected with our local communities? In 2013, when Dangerous Ideas started, society was dealing with the fallout from the banking crisis, facing challenges of public sector cuts and a reliance on consumption. What’s the role of grassroots activity in addressing these challenges?
Since then, almost 40 events have taken place, captured in graphic form by Jon Oliver’s posters. Rebecca Kinge gave a potted history of the events, highlighting how the events were built upon and fostered a myriad of ever-increasing connections between people. The gatherings explored issues topic by topic, all connected with the themes of fairness, sustainability and being part of a more creative and vibrant city.
How did we do?
Callum Robertson introduced the evaluation that he has undertaken, supported by the University of Southampton’s Public Engagement in Research team. Callum had undertaken an online survey of attendees of the events and conducted a series of one to one in depth interviews with people who had been involved.
The overriding message was that people felt hugely positive about Dangerous Ideas and grassroots social change. Everyone agreed it had a valuable role in the city.
The events had the following benefits:
- enabled relationship building between people – they liked the chance to get together with like-minded people who care about social change issues and they enjoyed the informal social side of the events;
- raised awareness of neglected issues, and helped draw together activity which was happening in isolation;
- it gave people and organisations a place to promote their work, and encouraged collaboration;
- it gave people the confidence and motivation to do more as individuals.
The niggles about the project related to the difficulty in attracting people from a diverse social economic background, although there is recognition that achieving a mix of people is hard to do. There was a sense that more could be done by Dangerous Ideas or others to encourage more tangible action around the issues addressed. There were differing and conflicting views on whether supporting tangible actions is the best activity for Dangerous Ideas to do, or whether it would be better to concentrate on providing a place for conversation.
Social change in Southampton is generally considered to be in a positive state, and some of that related to the work of Dangerous Ideas.
If you would like a copy of the report with information about Dangerous Ideas and an assessment of its impact, please get in contact.
We sat around our tables and explored the issue of what next, sharing our ideas and collecting them together as a big group. This work will be further progressed at a meeting at The Art House on Tues 10 October at 7.30pm. All are welcome and you can either sign up via our Facebook event or drop us an email to say you plan to come. And if you can’t come, share your thoughts with us so they can feed into the discussion.