Everyone’s talking about Brexit – but how can we actually ENGAGE people in the discussion? This design workshop, held in Sheffield in November 2017, invited younger people to discuss and design new, creative ways to engage and involve people in the Brexit debate.
Rather than look back on the arguments for remain and leave, our discussion focused on young people’s experiences of the Brexit debate so far, challenges in accessing and sharing useful and reputable information sources, and the measures that could help increase confidence in the Brexit negotiations.
Many of our participants shared the view that the public debate on Brexit has been limited and uninspiring, causing confusion and frustration amongst people who wish to understand political developments. The tone of reporting on Brexit is often negative and only serves to further polarise different views and perspectives. Unhelpful phrases such as “Brexit means Brexit”, “the best deal for Britain”, or “no deal is better than a bad deal” do not help engage people or increase understanding of the process, and as a number of facts and figures cited in the media have been contested or disproved, it is often hard to know what sources to trust for reliable information or how to separate fact and opinion.
Specific questions and concerns voiced by participants related to personal circumstances and opportunities, such as educational prospects and opportunities to work and study abroad. But there were also a number of “big picture” questions around how Brexit will affect the country, the economy and our society.
What would a more positive, productive approach to the public debate on Brexit look like? Our rapid prototyping activities challenged participants to design a creative idea that would share knowledge and information, encourage people to understand the perspectives of others, and avoid the common unhelpful buzzwords and phrases that often detract from the real issues. Here are some of the most inspiring ideas.
The Brexit Spa: “Let’s detox the debate”
Let’s bring people together to discuss Brexit in a relaxed, calming environment. Chilled music is playing in the background and on arrival you will be invited to relax with a herbal tea that will help detox your body as well as the discussion. A fluffy pillow is provided to help you de-stress, and biscuits also will provide a distraction. A pack of specially designed playing cards will encourage you to consider different views, with empathy rather than judgement. The Brexit Spa will offer a safe space for everyone, eliminate the frustrations and anger that often underpin discussions.
B-Free dating: “Let’s talk about B****t”
Brexit has become a toxic term, and perhaps it is impossible to find a more positive way of discussing different views between leave and remain voters. So let’s leave “Brexit” out of the conversation altogether! This dating-style app with match-make people who voted leave and remain, and encourage them to talk about all the topics and issues that are affected – from education and jobs, to our relationship with other countries. Just don’t mention the “B”-word!
Brexitville: “Build your own Brexit”
How would political negotiations and developments actually affect our everyday lives? This Farmville-style game would allow players to experiment with your own policies, trade deals and negotiations, then see how they affect the everyday lives of the citizens of Brexitville.
Conversation flashmobs: “Attack of the facts”
Many people are interested in the issues which relate to Brexit, but don’t know where to look for useful and relevant information. And let’s face it, the more we listen to some of the “experts”, the less we want to know. So let’s all club together for a “surprise” discussion on Brexit that will allow us to meet other people beyond our own social networks and learn about different perspectives. Bring useful facts only please!
Festival of ideas: “Let’s eat, drink and be Brexit!”
Held around the UK, these festivals would include experiential activities that encourage us to consider what sort of place we want Britain to be, and how we engage with the rest of the world. International musicians, food and drink tasting, and different cultural activities would complement the more traditional workshops, panel discussions, and inspirational talks.
These are just some of the ideas that we hope will inspire others – especially the politicians – to think about the creative and engaging ways to bring others into the discussion, in a way that is helpful, constructive and positive for the future.
Do you have your own idea? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This event is one of series of workshops to engage with millennials across the UK as part of Common Vision’s #BREXITWATCH project. With thanks to FES-London, Sheffield Futures and Sheffield Youth Cabinet for supporting this event.