On the 28th and 29th of June, over 120 delegates, presenters and exhibitors gathered at Bangor University for this year’s WISERD Annual Conference. This year’s theme was ‘Civil society and governance in an age of crisis’.
Colleagues from across WISERD’s five partner universities and more came together, and over the course of two busy days, nearly 50 research papers were presented. Parallel sessions explored global and local crises, civil society, culture and identity, work and social justice, working with communities, participatory and action research, and more.
We were joined by two keynote speakers: Derek Walker, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales and Paul Spicker, Emeritus Professor at Robert Gordon University. We were also delighted to be joined by Auriol Miller, Director of the Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA), for a special opening session: ‘Exploring Wales’ future constitutional options’.
Auriol Miller is a member of the Expert Panel that supports the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales, which was established as part of the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru Cooperation Agreement. In Auriol’s session, she discussed the work of the Commission so far, including the interim report published last year. She also provided a valuable insight into how the IWA is exploring the evidence submitted to the Commission, as part of a project funded by The Legal Education Foundation.
Derek Walker, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, provided the first of our keynotes, with ‘A Wales that works for everyone’ at Pontio, Bangor University’s arts and innovation centre. The Commissioner discussed how the Well-being of Future Generations Act can be utilised to combat key challenges, such as achieving more diversity in our decision-makers and our broader workforce. Also, in ensuring that organisations in Wales are taking preventative, integrated approaches to becoming an anti-racist Wales, and to reducing poverty and inequalities.
A special session focused on the lived experiences of children and young people drew day one to a close. The WISERD Education Multi-Cohort Study team gave a presentation on the latest findings, as we celebrate 10 years of this unique, longitudinal study. We were also pleased to host the Child Poverty in Wales book launch, led by the editor, Lori Beckett, with contributions from some of the authors. The book, published by University of Wales Press, provides a model way of working to push back against child poverty and inequalities.
Day two opened with our second keynote speaker, Paul Spicker, Emeritus Professor at Robert Gordon University, who discussed ‘The welfare state: a communitarian perspective’. Professor Spicker emphasised the importance of relationships and the individual characteristics of these. He suggests: “A society is a network of networks” and welfare provision has developed from the networks, duties and conventions which bind a society together.
In addition to an excellent line-up of speakers, we were pleased to be joined by nearly 20 exhibitors, ranging from Administrative Data Research Wales and the National Centre for Research Methods who are partnered with WISERD to deliver training, to the Welsh Government and the Welsh Centre for International Affairs. Other colleagues we were grateful to be joined by included those from the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, the Centre for Ageing and Dementia Research, Mantell Gwynedd and more.
Throughout the course of the event, delegates were also invited to view an exhibition, which comprised entries to this year’s PhD student poster competition – sponsored by the Learned Society of Wales and ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Partnership. Students presented their posters to delegates and the reviewing panel. We were delighted to announce the winners on day two of the conference. 1st prize was awarded to Andreas Mastrosavvas (Cardiff University), 2nd prize went to Robert James (Cardiff University) and 3rd prize was received by Lois Nash (Bangor University). As ever, the quality of research presented was extremely high and we are grateful to all those who took part.