Exploring Future Challenges

Article excerpt

The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)'s 21st Century Challenges project aims to improve public understanding of, and engagement with, some of the big issues likely to affect our lives and society in the coming years. Geographical thinking and solutions are at the heart of a number of key challenges affecting places, societies, environments and livelihoods, both locally and globally, and the series encourages its audiences--both online and in person--to think from those challenges from new and unique perspectives. The project, now in its fourth year, will feature panel discussions and an informative website with interviews, blogs and biographies covering a wide range of issues.

Topics covered to date have included the role of digital technologies in offering the countries of Africa realistic economic, educational and development opportunities. Closer to home, the project has also explored the ways in which British society is adapting to an ageing population, particularly in terms of the effects on healthcare and social services, potential gaps in the job market and the age of retirement itself.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The series was launched in 2008 by Kofi Annan and Sir Bob Geldof, who discussed the major challenges facing the countries of Africa. There have since been more than 18 panel debates with more than 60 keynote speeches by some of the leading thinkers from across academia, NGOs, science, business and politics. Notable contributors to the series have included the BBC's Evan Davis and Rory Cellan-Jones, founder of the Big Issue John Bird, chief executive of the Eden Project Tim Smit, scientist Professor Robert Winston, founder of Lastminute.com Martha Lane Fox and several MPs including Vince Cable and Hilary Benn.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

This year, the series is set to reach a larger and broader audience online. The Society will be opening up its archive of talks from the 21st Century Challenges series under a Creative Commons licence, which supports the idea of universal access to research, education and culture on the internet. …