Posts by Kate Cooper

The New Optimists Summer Update

FrontPage_TNO_Update_2014I did some totting up in compiling this latest Update. Over 220 people have taken part one way or t’other with The New Optimists.

As you’d expect, a fair few (over 130 and counting) are scientists. Have they had any impact? But of course. They have a book, a Kindle, 27 reports and papers (including the substantial Birmingham 2050 Scenarios Project Report), podcasts and video-interviews to their collective credit.

Plus four great spin-offs — and here they are in order of appearance:

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Elliott Review Birmingham

ChrisElliott@ElliottReviewBirminghamThis is the updated Elliott Review Birmingham report. We’ve added in references to the final Elliott Report, which was published only last Thursday.

After the workshop we co-hosted with the Elliott Review Team last April, Birmingham made specific offers, as outlined in section 2 of our report (pages 4-5). These are replicated in full in the final Elliott Report (annex N).

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The Elliott Report and the Elliott Review Birmingham



The Elliott Report into the integrity and assurance of food supply networks is finally published today.

Here in Birmingham, we contributed to the Prof’s review. Birmingham has offered to take the lead in tackling food crime in the UK. The Elliott Review Birmingham can be found here.

And the Prof’s final report can be found here.



Over 220 great people involved . . .

I’m writing an update on what’s been going on with us over the last few months. As part of this, I’ve done some adding up.

Over 220 people have been involved one way or t’other. 124 of these are scientists, including social scientists —and of these, 72 are Professors. 46 non-scientists also participated in workshops or other events. Another 9 are already involved on the Narrativium Projects. And a further 22 people have used their talents in a variety of ways to help everything along, from social media to facilitation, from analysing stuff to writing reports . . .

Look at ’em! What stars they are, eh.

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David Broomhead (1950-2014)

DavidBroomheadI first met David in 1999. There were moves afoot to have “something like the Sante Fe Institute” here in the UK — the notion had come from a Unilever bigwig. Warwick’s Ian Stewart told me David was the man to talk to. A brilliant mathematician, he said, and an applied mathematician.

So up I trotted to Manchester to meet this warm, witty man who offered me a wide variety of teas, batting not an eyelid at my preference for builder’s.

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Narrativium & The Norm Chronicles

TheNormChroniclesWhat has the hugely entertaining book The Norm Chronicles got to do with the Narrativium Project?

An entertaining book? Yes. Sometimes hilarious, yup. And it’s about statistics?

How come? The two authors understand the power of narrativium. One is Cambridge statistician David Spiegelhalter who ‘lives on a flood plain but is more anxious about forgetting where he put the house keys‘; t’other is writer Michael Blastland.

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Elliott Review: Workshop outputs


The Elliott Review was set up by HM Government in response to the horsemeat scandal; they asked the Prof to lead it. A great choice; he’s Director of the Global Food Safety Institute as well as a top-notch molecular bioscientist.

The Prof asked us to help him and his Review team draw a case study of how a major UK city could tackle food crime for inclusion in their final Report.

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Guide Dogs: support the science behind why they’re so brilliant

GuideDogIs4LifeThe handsome fellow on the left is called Spencer.

His owner is Professor John Hilbourne. To John, Spencer is a highly intelligent, superbly trained guide dog. He’s proved to be a strategic thinker, a calculating, caring animal whose work enables John to lead an independent life.

But his very existence as well as his considerable skills are based on science, hard evidence about what works and what doesn’t.

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The mac, the Narrativium commission & 27th June

Daniel Whitehouse, the brilliant Next Generation producer at mac birmingham, is organising the commission of emerging creatives for our Narrativium Project.

The deadline for expressions of interest is 27th June.


It’s a great opportunity for three young creatives. They’ll get to work with producer Jo Carr of Untied Artists, and theatre director Graeme Rose as well as perform ‘stories from the future’ based on the scientists’ assessment of possible food futures for all of us.

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