Charlie Taggart, aged 2, at the first Creating Our Future roadshow in Co Wicklow last month. Jason Clarke

'We're getting a huge variety of ideas': How you can take part in Ireland's biggest brainstorm

Health, housing… and even skate parks: Julie Byrne discusses some of the Creating Our Future submissions to date.

CASE NUMBERS, AIRBORNE virus transmission, vaccine rollouts… Over the last 18 months, topics once reserved for textbooks and labs have now become part of the nation’s conversational shorthand.

Research and science have gained new significance in our everyday lives since March 2020, arming us with the information – and hope – we need to weather the Covid-19 pandemic.

This public appreciation for the power of research and innovation was the inspiration for Creating Our Future, a nationwide brainstorm that’s capturing the imaginations of people around the country. 

Launched last month and running until the end of November, the government-led project invites people to submit their ideas, big and small, for how to build a better future for all. All submissions will be reviewed and will form part of a report for government, which will then inspire future research in Ireland.

It’s a rare opportunity for members of the public to create real change, says Julie Byrne, chair of the Creating Our Future Advisory Forum, emphasising that ideas don’t just have to be related to science:

This is a really important chance for people to connect their questions with talented researchers around the country. Your submission can be related to any sector, be it sports, arts, diversity, tech or anything else.

Screenshot 2021-10-11 at 11.48.55 Julie Byrne, chair of the Creating Our Future Advisory Forum. Jason Clarke Jason Clarke

How it works

Members of the public can share ideas via an online portal (“You can write something short, you can write something long, it’s up to you,” says Byrne) or at the Creating Our Future roadshow which is touring the country until the campaign ends in November.

Some people might prefer to have a discussion about their idea before they submit it, and the roadshow is a chance for them to do that. It’s visiting every county in Ireland, and people can come along, have a cup of tea and speak to a researcher face-to-face.

There are other events too, some as part of Science Week this November, along with brunches, think-ins and more throughout October. The aim, Byrne says, is to bring Creating Our Future to as many people, in as many communities, as possible.

We really want this campaign to be inclusive, not just in terms of the types of research it generates, but also in terms of the people it reaches. Part of the Advisory Forum’s role is to ensure that Creating Our Future is something people in all corners of the country know they can participate in.

sfi Kate Pereira, aged 3, showing how easy it is to submit an idea at one of the Creating Our Future roadshows. Jason Clarke Jason Clarke

Range of topics

What kind of ideas have been submitted so far? A huge variety, says Byrne, but there are a couple of strong themes coming through.

We’ve seen a focus on health, wellbeing, environment and housing in the online submissions. At the local roadshows, there are also a lot of local suggestions – be it a skate park for local kids or other amenities that can drive community innovation.

Byrne says she is “particularly interested” in seeing more ideas around culture, the arts and diversity, and is confident that her wish will be granted as the project moves on and people become more open to sharing their views.

“I’ve had some friends and family say to me, ‘Well I don’t know anything about research,’ but the question that we’re really asking people to answer is, ‘What do you care about?’ And when I’ve asked people that question, the answers are so varied: ‘I care about ash trees, I care about animal welfare, I care about sports.’ That’s where the ideas come from.”

If you’re finding it hard to get into ideas mode, try a group brainstorm, over a cup of coffee or a few slices of pizza. “It’s all about having that conversation,” says Byrne.

“Ask yourself: what do you think can make the country or the world a better place? What would you like to see happen? Ask the question and go from there.”

Do you have an idea that you think researchers should explore?  Creating Our Future is an opportunity for everyone in Ireland to submit their ideas – no matter how big or small.  From science, the environment, health and education to poverty, the arts, diversity and inclusion – all ideas are welcome that can inspire researchers to help make a better future for all.