Charlie Woods – The Elephant in the Room

Apparently, a picture is worth a thousand words. With this in mind, I was delighted to come across this cartoon (by artist G. Renee Guzlas) to start our presentation at this month’s roadshows around our member universities, to help illustrate what lies behind SUII projects.

In many respects the elephant represents some of the more challenging and intractable issues faced by society today. Depending on where you are standing, the issue at hand could appear very different and your diagnosis and remedy could vary greatly.

At SUII we encourage different perspectives (be they academic disciplines or policy and practice areas) to come together to exchange their viewpoints. We look to help build understanding, share learning and generate insights that when applied will make a difference to how things are done in Scotland. Ideally, we would like highly different perspectives to come together – ‘tusks and tails’ to push the analogy to breaking point!

As Margaret Heffernan put it in her book ‘Wilful Blindness’: ‘…in the intersection between perspectives, real insight can be gleaned.” In particular, we are trying to encourage knowledge exchange that wouldn’t otherwise take place, including novel partnerships to explore new developments and possibilities for improving policy and practice.

Our current call for proposals focuses on the theme of Scotland 2030. It is intended to complement and support Scotland’s Futures Forum’s current major programme of work. Scotland’s Futures Forum  is the Scottish Parliament’s futures think-tank. Their 2030 programme is an exploration of Scotland’s culture and society and aspirations for 2030 and beyond. It is taking a number of different perspectives and considering the societal and cultural impacts of existing and predicted trends and examining how Scotland can meet the challenges and exploit the opportunities that emerge.

The SUII call invites applicants to explore scenarios for what might be possible in this time frame (based on current knowledge/experience and emerging trends) along with the practicalities of what might be required in the intervening period in order to reach different destinations.

Applicants are invited to consider the future from a variety of perspectives – proposals could be relatively narrowly focussed or broader system wide explorations. Projects should also consider potential synergies and opportunities for collaboration, alongside possible trade-offs between different interests in varying scenarios.

We know there are plenty of ‘elephants’ out there, this is an opportunity to look at them more collaboratively and to make a difference to how the future might look.


Author: scotinsight

The Scottish Universities Insight Institute supports programmes of knowledge exchange which address and provide insight on substantial issues that face Scotland and the wider world. Our programmes break down disciplinary and organisational barriers in bringing together academics from different backgrounds, policymakers and practitioners to mobilise existing knowledge in fresh ways through sustained and collaborative focus on a shared issue. Our member universities are: Aberdeen, Dundee, Heriot Watt, St Andrews, Strathclyde, and Glasgow School of Art.

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