This blog is maintained by Keri Facer, I’m Professor of Educational and Social Futures at the University of Bristol. This site is a holding pen for as many of my publications, talks and project summaries as copyright restrictions and slightly chaotic filing systems will allow me to pull together; as well as the very occasional blog post on events and ideas. This is a link to an interview with me conducted by AHRC in 2017.
Why’s the site called ‘educated optimism’? Because the future is a source of both fear and hope, of radical destructive challenges that we have to confront and of as-yet unknown possibilities that we might realise. If we are to find a way to act in the present that is neither naive nor nihilistic, it has to be with both hope and knowledge. Working out how to create what I’ve called educated optimism (which I take to be related to what Bloch calls educated hope, or Sarah Amsler calls, the practice of possibility) is what holds together all of my work – from attempting to exploit technologies in a non-stupid manner to working out how we can actively support and sustain the wider field of public and informal learning.
My academic work is broadly concerned with understanding (and sometimes creating) relationships between universities, schools and wider society. My research practice focuses on interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral research, with my roots in cultural studies. In recent years I’ve been particularly concerned with understanding the implications of potential future economic, environmental and technological change for the relationship between schools and communities, which is the subject of my book Learning Futures.
These days I’m mainly concerned with exploring how we can best create new research cultures to ensure that all of our communities can build what Appadurai calls the strategic knowledge they need to thrive despite potential significant environmental, economic and technological disruptions. This means understanding both how we might think about the future, and the anticipatory assumptions we are working with (see for example the emerging Discipline of Anticipation) as well as understanding what a new landscape of public knowledge production might look like. Last year we ran the first international conference on Anticipation at Trento, and here at Bristol we have just established the Anticipation Research Group, which draws together researchers across a wide range of disciplines – from philosophy to climate science to engineering and literature.
My primary research project at the moment involves my role as AHRC Leadership Fellow, with George McKay at Salford, for the Connected Communities Research Programme. This involves working across the UK with the hundreds of researchers and community partners in this programme who are beginning to build new relationships between universities, independent research organisations and communities. I am also working to better explore and develop the relationship between the University of Bristol and the City of Bristol, in particular to mobilise the resources of the City and University to support education and young people. One way this has developed is in the 80by18 project, another is the support we’ve been offering to the development of the Child Friendly Cities Initiative here.
Professor of Educational and Social Futures, Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol (2012- ongoing); Research Professor, Education and Social Research Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University (2008-2012); Visiting Professor, Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter (2008- ongoing) ; Head of Learning Research & Research Director, Futurelab (2004-2008) ; Researcher & Lecturer, Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol (1998-2002); Freelance – various arts administration and temporary roles, including at Jordanhill school and as Collaborator with Zoe Alambicum Multi-Media Opera) (1995-1997)
Other roles – editorial board member for Futures, Journal of Media and Technology, Research for All, British Journal of Sociology of Education. Advisory Board member for NCVO, for the Imagine Project and for the Voices of War and Peace Centre. Former advisory roles have included work with the UNESCO Knowlabs programme, the Royal Society, ESRC, BBC, Times Education Supplement, BECTA, CAPE, QCA, the Inclusion Trust, amongst others.