On Thursday 5th February, 2015, WISERD celebrated the official launch of its flagship Civil Society Research Centre.
WISERD’s Director Ian Rees Jones reflects upon a successful event.
I spent a nervous few days prior to the WISERD Civil Society Research Centre launch. I wondered whether we would have an audience, hoped all the speakers would arrive safely, and fretted over whether everything would be ready in time. I should have stopped worrying and relaxed a bit more because everything was in place thanks to the efforts of WISERD hub staff. There was a great audience from a wide variety of organisations and we had a very interesting and enjoyable evening.
The launch was held at The Gate in Cardiff which turned out to be the perfect venue; allowing us to set out poster displays of all the new projects we will be undertaking as part of the WISERD five year programme. I think people found this especially useful as a space to wander around and find out more about individual projects, as well as to discuss ideas with the project researchers.
The launch was opened by two excellent talks, the first from Ruth Marks from the Wales Council for Voluntary Action(WCVA), and the second from Rhodri Morgan, former First Minister of Wales. Ruth gave a wonderful speech that emphasised the importance of close working between academic researchers and the voluntary sector in planning, undertaking and disseminating research. Drawing on examples from our joint working with the WCVA in preparing the WISERD Civil Society proposal, Ruth showed how working in partnership is a core part of the new WISERD centre.
It was also a delight to have Rhodri Morgan with us as he gave the inaugural speech at the first WISERD launch in 2009. Rhodri’s commitment to social science research in Wales shone through then and the original support from the Welsh Government and Higher Education Funding Council for Wales provided the foundation for our more recent successes.
Our speakers (L -R) Professor Ian Rees Jones, Ruth Marks, Rhodri Morgan, Professor Saskia Sassen, and Professor Gareth Rees
Professor Sassen addresses the audience
Following Rhodri’s talk we sojourned to the main lecture theatre to hear WISERD’s own Professor Gareth Rees introduce Saskia Sassen; the Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University. It was a great honour to have Saskia give the key note speech and she didn’t let us down, giving a highly entertaining and stimulating talk based on her recent book; Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy. Using vivid examples, from a range of data sources, Saskia presented an incisive and cutting critique of the devastating consequences of an out-of-control global financial system can wreak upon local communities and vulnerable groups. This was followed by a lively question and answer session from the floor that clearly showed the relevance of Saskia’s work for research with regards local forms of civil society.
There was much there to digest and to reflect upon in relation to the different research projects we are undertaking – from the role of local economic and political actors, to the importance of civic participation across generational groups. I was struck by the many people who came up to me in the following days who had been stimulated by the ideas and new perspectives offered by Saskia’s talk. It was a great start to our flagship Civil Society Research Centre, and I hope it inspired everyone to engage with our diverse programme of research. Now the hard work begins.
About the author: Professor Ian Rees Jones is the Director of WISERD. He is based at Cardiff University. He is currently undertaking a series of research projects that addresses processes of social change and their impact on individuals, institutions, communities and civil society. In addition he is undertaking research specifically addressing ageing, later life and the experience of dementia. This includes work looking at class and health inequalities in later life, generational relations, social engagement and participation and changes in consumption patterns as people age. Examples include research on well-being among older people and the networks and relations of people living with dementia; comparative research on social participation and engagement with civil society organisations; the role of social enterprises in welfare provision; and theoretical work on civil society and generational change.
Image source: Michael Hall Photography, for WISERD