We designed an itinerant exhibition, a pub quiz and a board game in a way that could respond to various aspects of what it means to engage a country's citizenship in a critical debate. The itinerant exhibition is based on social objects: during our research, we understood how the materiality of an object could be important to ease the connection between global trends and daily lives. The pub quiz is very linked to the British culture and its aimed to inform citizens throughout the whole country -- three rounds of questions (about British foods, Food and Health and Food and Environment) are alternated with three activities to capture people's priorities. The board game is distributed in high schools and is structured in such a way that participants experience the journey from field to fork. By impersonating either the government, the tech industry or the farmers, etc, it is possible to understand more than one point of view in this extremely complex system.
These tools have been designed for the public engagement team within the context of the National Food Strategy in order to collect insights from citizens and create the most comprehensive legislation about the British Food System possible. Inclusivity is a parameter that we highly considered: people in the countryside, elderly, underaged children and cultural minorities are often left behind in public debates. Because of this, we wanted to create solutions that are very rooted in typical ways of living (pub quiz), that would be accessible and fun (board game) and that pay attention to anyone that wanted to be involved (itinerant street exhibition).
An adequate involvement of citizens is revealing to be more and more important for democracies in the 'Information Era'. Engagement must go beyond making people aware of what is happening and what is about to happen. Understanding the population better helps to develop legislations that can be satisfying and fair for all, and to have a successful implementation. Knowing what people care about and how much they feel related to certain topics is a crucial aspect in order to understand how radical a legislation could be and how fast its implementation could happen. People's awareness of the role of the food system in the economy and for the environment is also very important in order to push everybody's values and beliefs toward fairness, healthiness and sustainability.
In analysing what a critical conversation is, our tools respond to the necessity of making people aware of the situation, inform them about its complexity and help them to be critical when it comes to expressing their opinion. The exhibition is very tangible and aims to create awareness among citizens, the pub quiz is aimed to inform them and, finally, the board game encourages the participants to be critical when it comes to generating ideas in order to solve issues throughout the journey from field to fork. Facilitators are very important for our tools to be truly effective. During the exhibitions, they are fundamental to attract a variety of people and help them to compare their daily experiences with the system's big picture. During the pub quiz, facilitators are needed to balance fun and seriousness. Finally, during the board game, a facilitator is needed to inspire and inform what each stakeholder could and could not do.