Our first meeting at the Admiral Rodney, looking at a truly global view of our planet
Updated 22 Oct 23-RL This is a relatively new group, with eight "founder members", which held its first meeting in May 2023. We now meet at the Admiral Rodney in Southwell from 1.45-4pm on the second Thursday of each month. They have friendly staff, and we like their bar facilities and conservatory room, so it works for all!
We aim to learn, and teach each other to weave geography, economics, politics, history, sociology (and more) into a web that gives us greater understanding of our world. Our experience of our first few meetings is of lively involvement, discussion, debate, sharing of research, ideas, facts and “unknowns” about the global issues of today, the past and the future. Plenty of laughter included, despite the serious nature of the topics discussed.
What have we discussed so far? Our first three months focussed on setting ourselves up as a group. We are now well into the "enjoying discussions" stage!
Our Inspiration: Internationally, remarkably few other u3a organisations have a “Geopolitics Interest Group”, but whilst Elmbridge, Ballerat and Victoria are a tad far to travel to, these sites gave ideas for possible content, and an overview of "What is Geopolitics about": We are grateful to these for helping us as we started up: https://u3asites.org.uk/elmbridge/page/27691 and https://u3achrisdickinson.com/ We have agreed a list of topics that we will find interesting to explore in future meetings (listed in a table at the foot of this page)
What is Geopolitics about? We have agreed what we think Geopolitics is about. No doubt this wiill change over time, but here is our working summary: "What is Geopolitics"(opens in a new window as a .PDF)
Leadership and Learning: We agree that none of us are "experts", and we can all learn from each other. Each of us can find out things that the rest of us may be interested to learn about For now, Rik has agreed to coordinate/lead/chair our discussions as primus inter pares: He is happy to have this reviewed every few months, should one or more other members wish to take on any "leader" roles, and is keen that we are as democratic as we reasonably can be.
"Introducer": We have agreed that whilst Rik chairs, each of us will take it in turn to a) choose a topic and b) introduce it at the agreed date. We agreed this must be an enjoyable and stress-free duty, and here are some hopefully reassuring guidelines
Location & Time: We originally thought that several of us would host meetings at our homes in rotation, thinking that this is a) is nicer for a group of under a dozen, b) saves expense and therefore the need for one of us to be a "treasurer" c) probably helps us to get to know each other faster/better. We then found the Admiral Rodney in Southwell happy to host at a time when their bar is quiet. Vocal lubrication on tap.... We agreed 2pm to 4pm on the second Thursday afternoon of each month is the best day and time for us to meet. The dates for 2023 into 2024, with leader for the main topic and known membership, are listed below.
Discussion Topics: At our first meeting, we considered the question "Do we start with a small easy topic first OR start with the big global picture" The latter won, and this continued into our July meeting. A brief summary of the main topics discussed so far is here, and the headings/dates of past and future sessions are here:
11 May Ground rules, ethos, possible topics, setting up as a new group (Present: RF,RL,MS)
8 June Discussing topics, how our meetings may be structured and opening discussion about global geopolitics (Present: RF,RL,MS,EW)
10 August (Introducer is RF)(Apologies RW, KR): What are the main effects of discrimination, within the UK and globally? Which is worse, "positive" (or "Reverse") discrimination or "negative" discrimination?
12 Oct (Introducer RW) ,"99% & Economics": Wealth gaps and values gaps between different societal groups are reaching unsustainable levels. Consider the 99% book (Mark Thomas): What geopolitical consequences result?
9 Nov & 14 Dec: Given the Southwell Branch u3a meeting for October was "Russia" we have agreed to make this topic a "double session" over two months to consider matters pertaining to this country, and its geopolitical impact on Ukraine, Africa, the Middle East and more (Introducer & topic details/preparation to follow)
11 Jan 24 and 13 Feb (Introducers Carolyn and Martin) "China's Silk Road" again a 2-month linked session. Looking further ahead, depending on geopolitical priorities, both Carolyn and Rik are interested in a session on "Western Misconceptions: Hans Rosling on 'Factfulness", which is a book we both recommend)
Ethos: We agree that we must guard against "confirmation bias", i.e. accepting only what we already believe: Hearing opposing views, considering, fact-finding, thinking and debating, but critically not just tolerating "opposing" or challenging views but actively encouraging such must be part of our ethos, along with supporting each other as we feel challenged.
Our Meeting Plan: We have agreed a plan for what meetings will normally look like (read below)
Book Recommendations: Several of us are reading books about geopolitics and related fields, and we are already excitedly telling each other about these and swapping reading material. For any members unable to attend a meeting, we are noting our recommendations here for easy reference.
Group Size: We discussed what we felt the optimum size of our group should be: Too small a number present limits discussion, knowledge and the opportunity for a wide range of views. Too many limits the opportunity for all to feel they have contributed. The consensus was that we prefer meetings with around 5 to 12 participants, depending to some extent on personalities and recognising that we will rarely have everyone present. Should we grow above 12, we could optionallly either break into two groups OR to meet in one location with a breakout facility, discuss in two sub-groups, then join for a plenary. We can therefore grow further.
Confidentiality and Contacts: Those of us present at the July meeting agreed it would be helpful to share contact details. Given GDPR and other concerns, we will only share "first name" unless you send an email to Rik giving permission for other details.
5 mins: Welcome/update
60 mins: One of us will introduce the topic they have chosen in advance from our "Topics List". We then move to chaired open discussion.
5 mins max: Agreement of main points raised/made/summary. Decision whether to continue this topic the following month after we have each has time to reflect and researchat a later session, or summarise and close the topic.
10 mins: Refreshment break: Social conversation is recommended, unless one of these topics has fired us up!
50 mins max: Those who wish to, put forward thoughts about "Hot Geopolitical News" that may or may have not hit headlines in the past month, and we discuss these. We might agree that some developments warrant adding to our "Topics List" for more in-depth treatment at a later meeting.
5 mins: Wrap-up, look forward to next session perhaps including a short explanation of the following month's main topic.
Discussion Topics plan:
Rik circulated a list of possible topicsput forward by several of us, to members. At the July meeting we looked at the expanded/revised list and suggested revisions. This has been further refined and augmented, and is now embedded at the foot of this web page
We have agreed that we will each in turn choose a topic from the list, so that over time we will each have our own personal top choice of topic discussed. We have drawn names out of a hat, and await topic choices from each member as their turn comes.
As a reserve in case of illness or other unexpected absence, the following month's topic+member will step in.
Any member can "opt out" of choosing a topic: No pressure!
We realise that none of us are world authorities on any of the topics, so the "Member's topic introduction" may be no more than reading out the title.... or they may spend up to 10 minutes explaining why they feel the topic is important, what they know, and important aspects to discuss.
If a 66%+ majority agree, then any topic proving it warrants more discussion can be carried forward to continue as the topic for the next month, with all of the later topics moved later by one month.
The list of possible topics is likely to expand over time, with inclusion of some items from our "Hot Geopolitical News" section.
Topics in bold on the list below indicate that Rik has prepared an introduction sheet on this topic. Each takes an hour or so to prepare, so don't expect them all to have such a sheet anytime soon!
Think you might be interested in joining this group?
If interested, click on Contact Us: The email will go direct to the Webmaster. That’s me, Rik, the Webmaster. I'm happy to be the leader / co-leader, or in time hand on or work with any other member who would like to lead.