The University of Glasgow hosted its College of Social Sciences Research Fair. As part of this, the Sustainable Futures in Africa team took part in their public engagement event at IKEA.

Written by SFA Intern and Ph.D. Candidate Samir Halliru

It was a great day at IKEA on Saturday the 4th of November 2017! The SFA team arrived at the venue at 8 am with the hopes of fruitful interaction with members of the public! After safety briefings, the SFA team displayed African costumes to reflect the regional focus and our interdisciplinary work. Two activities were conducted on the day; a multiple-choice quiz and a ‘Hans Haacke’ style voting poll, see below

How Can We Best Help Global Inequality: ‘Hans Haacke’ voting poll

Perceptions of the event

‘It was really pleasing to see grannies, parents, and children really engaging in the activities you put on.  I saw proud parents standing watching as their children showed off their knowledge of ‘what makes you healthy’, and of the barriers to inclusion and a range of literacies. – Professor Sally Wyke

Samir outlined how the event has triggered public curiosity and interest in the universities taking research outside the university through engagement with the actual beneficiaries (people) of the university researches. Events like these are some of the best ways to address social inequalities at the local, national and global levels.

Dr. Daniel Koehn shared that ‘It was surprisingly rewarding to talk to the variety of people wandering by, to answer their questions and to send groups of people off chatting and debating about charities and Africa. It was essential that Nigerian SFA Intern, Samir was there; otherwise, it’s just white people talking about Africa, which would not be very authentic.’

Dr Daniel Koehn, UofG getting involved in the SFA Quiz

The trend of international development in the global south

People were interested, especially those with connections to the Global South through travel, jobs in the third sector and research. It was easier than I expected to engage people. For example, Molly reported the stories of two young students who shared and discussed their experiences of completing research in Uganda. It seems to the BA students who conducted the research that the development research seemed to benefit the Northern students more than the communities they researched.

One participant in the events reflected that to solve the issue of international development in the global south powerful countries should organize to dredge the surrounding sea and channel all the water to Africa – ‘there’s lots of water in the sea, and Africans need water – simple?!’

What should be done differently?

There were many ‘take homes’ and lessons learned, as this event served as a great ‘test-run’ for future events. For example, it was noted that there wasn’t a focus on the Global North’s role in International Development; I would like our local public engagement events to focus more on this in future events.

‘Rather than “curiosities” of the global south, I would like a stronger emphasis on our explicit roles and connections with the global conditions of inequality and plurality’ – Dr. Mia Perry.

Daniel noted that that the question for the bowl could have been selected better as the question confused people and there was a danger of leading people to our preferred answers through our explanation. The issues it seemed to raise for many people was the management of charity funding, rather than our own day-to-day lives and choices and their role in the overall global state of inequality. The following suggestions were noted for future events:

  • A different question is needed – and this day was a very good way to develop an understanding of common perceptions and views;
  • More interactive activities for the next event to gather more insights into people’s perfections
  • The quiz was very successful yet we could create questions directly with the projects we are involved in;
  • Storytelling would be a nice approach in the future, small movies made from the scoping trials. This could be an output from our new arts-based projects
  • We need a hand out with the website URL, and some key images and information on the network. Leaflets will be of great help in future events

To Summarise …

IKEA is a big multinational company that designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture, kitchen appliances, and home accessories. IKEA in Braehead (Glasgow) was believed to have 8000 to 13000 people going through their doors every Saturday. The choice of the location for the University of Glasgow’s College of Social Sciences Research Fair offered a great opportunity for listening to people’s voices and perceptions of international development. As noted by Molly a conservative estimate is that we reached 800 of them with our activities on the importance of social science and what we can offer. I think similar events might be good in partner countries: Uganda, Botswana, Nigeria and Malawi. Engaging the public through market places and festive events will offer great perspectives on the people’s needs and concerns.

For More information:

A Storyboard of Uganda’s Research Trial