IGP Stories

Citizen Social Science for the Twenty-First Century’s Challenges

Tony McKenzie

Reflections on the IGP - British Academy workshop on Citizen Social Science

On December 2, 2020, the IGP and British Academy convened a workshop entitled “Citizen Social Science for the Twenty-First Century’s Challenges.” The event included presentations and panel discussions from IGP citizen scientists from Lebanon, Kenya and the UK. Team members discussed their research activities and experiences, as well as the methodological challenges of citizen social science.

Firstly, I have to give thanks to the IGP and British Academy for convening the workshop, as well as to my fellow contributors, all those who attended, and indeed our funders.

When I was invited to be a contributor to this event I felt flattered because in London we have such a high calibre of Citizen Social Scientist (CSS). Then, when I saw whom I would be sharing the panel with, well I was just humbled to speak alongside such inspiring CSSs from Lebanon and Kenya!

We were posed three questions to guide the discussion of the workshop. The first question was ‘What is the context and what are the challenges in the area where you carry out research?’

This question took me back five years to when I first encountered the IGP, and reminded me of the distance we’ve travelled since. I was able to reflect on everything being new to me, working alongside boffins (academics), like proper boffins – something that I would never have imagined in a million years. What stood out for me was the patience and the learning I undertook with the academics, how they helped me shape my passion and concern for my local community into something meaningful and actionable. Hearing this echoed (not the boffin part) from fellow CSS form across the world made me feel proud and a part of a movement.

Our second question was: ‘What activities have you participated in as part of your work?’

Again, this was a trip down memory lane, a very fun and adventurous one at that; I was in awe of the work my fellow panellists spoke about. The story that touched me the most was the one about the community in Bar Elias, Lebanon, taking ownership of the urban intervention and decorating it after it was completed.

The third and final question was: ‘Why is this work important for you and your community and what is the envisaged impact?’ Again, listening to all the teams talk resonated with my feeling about why I became a CSS and why I have continued to be one. I simply care, and the workshop further embedded a sense of being a part of a wider movement of local change makers – Citizen Social Scientist!

In closing, I will end like I started with a warm heartfelt thank you to my fellow CSS, IGP and our funders. Bringing us all together to draw back the curtains of memories, to tarry and meander in thought about the distance travelled, is like a pit stop, to recharge, reboots and set me up for the next to come!

Image credit: Christin Hume on Unsplash

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