Claiming our Future, a novel civil society “think in” took place at the RDS on Saturday October 30th, 2010   There was a tremendous buzz in the Industries Hall from 9 am that morning as 1,000 people arrived to take their places at one of the 100 roundtables set up in the hall.  Throughout the day each table debated the kind of values we want to underpin our society; the priority that should be accorded to a range of policy objectives and the sorts of initiatives and actions that could be taken to achieve the agreed objectives. Using a software package (which only caused a few hiccups on the day!) every table was able to exercise their votes, and all the votes were aggregated to come up with an overall, consensual result. For details on the deliberative process and the outcomes see the website.

The most innovative aspect of the proceedings was the emphasis of deliberative engagement.  Normally at a 1,000 people conference it is the keynote speakers that get the air time and the audience simply act as spectators with limited opportunity for questions.  Here, there were no keynote speakers or experts telling us how it is.  At each table we drew on each others views and expertise to arrive at an agreed view and feed it back to all the other tables.  At my table there were a couple of civil servants, a retired teacher and a serving teacher, a recently unemployed journalist, a Filipino  woman who is a domestic worker, and an arts/cultural worker. The various sessions were bookmarked by fantastic musical acts including Mary Coughlan,  the Miracle Makers rappers and the Gloria choir.  The day was creative and  invigorating.  It gave people the sense that there was a substantial constituency out there who shared their own disenchantment with the direction taken by the government during the past decade.  The event made it possible to really believe in a politics of hope over a politics of catastrophe. If you are interested in finding out more about Claiming Our Future or you have any ideas to contribute on how the country can be renewed click here.

Mary Corcoran