Philosophy in the City Annual Report 2019/20
Philosophy in the City (PinC) is an award-winning outreach project, run entirely by student volunteers from the University of Sheffield’s Philosophy department. PinC volunteers go into schools and other institutions to facilitate philosophical discussion, encouraging pupils and residents to think critically about philosophical problems and develop their own ideas. They aim to promote opportunities for people of any age or background to engage with Philosophy and to make Philosophy a subject that is of use and value to both the individual and society.
'As the outgoing President of Philosophy in the City, I would like to write a few words reflecting on our achievements and experiences this year. As I am sure is the case for any participant-focused organization, this year has been a challenging one given restrictions on face-to-face contact. However, I am proud of PinC’s achievements and its optimistic response to the challenge posed by COVID-19.
First, a little bit about us. Philosophy in the City (PinC) is an award-winning outreach project, run entirely by student volunteers from the University of Sheffield’s Philosophy department. Volunteers go into schools and other institutions to facilitate philosophical discussion, encouraging pupils and residents to think critically about philosophical problems and develop their own ideas. PinC aims to promote opportunities for people of any age or background to engage with philosophy, and to make philosophy a subject that is of use and value to both the individual and society. As President of PinC, my responsibilities this year have included organizing and chairing meetings, coordinating PinC activities, developing new projects and representing the organization.
In the last academic year, PinC led 48 hours of philosophy sessions with its partner projects. Accounting for the number of PinC volunteers, this constituted 102 hours of volunteer time. Volunteers worked with 10 community projects and led sessions in six of these projects. Such achievements are especially significant given the fact that PinC had to suspend all projects in March 2020.
The highlights of the year for me were several. Firstly, in January PinC set up two primary school projects: Clifford All Saints’ and Woodhouse West. Partnering with primary schools had been an ongoing difficulty, as many schools sadly cannot fit PinC’s work around their various curriculum requirements. Having two state-sector primaries was therefore a great achievement. The primary schools have had sessions on the environment, stewardship, courage, and personal identity.
Secondly, PinC established a new project with Roundabout homeless charity, this time working with young people ages 16-18 from care backgrounds. These sessions were small but productive, with one participant showing a real talent for philosophical discussion.
In addition, PinC held some exciting one-off events. The committee organized a video call meeting with an educator in the USA, Julienne Lachance. Julienne runs workshops on AI for underprivileged children, hoping to increase their participation in STEM subjects. Julienne sought PinC’s support for the ethical side of AI studies, which we provided in the form of lesson plans and other resources. She wishes to stay in touch as the project continues.
Another event PinC ran was part of a local Sixth Form’s ‘philosophy retreat’ in Hathersage. Volunteers ran sessions for the day on political philosophy, discussing topics such as participatory democracy and environmental activism. The students were very engaged and had interesting debates, particularly around the role of violence in political means and ends.
Whilst we had a productive half-year, PinC obviously had to suspend its activities in March following the COVID-19 outbreak. However, PinC work continued in this period. We ran the AGM online, and we continued to meet virtually to discuss ideas for the future. We have some exciting plans, although more will have to be decided on how to safely hold sessions. Projects which PinC is planning include working with Sheffield’s Roma community, with the St Mary’s Church ‘Timebuilders’ project, and possibly with the prison and probation service (although this will likely have to wait until the health crisis stabilizes). We are also looking at reigniting the ‘Think and Drink’ project (formerly in pubs), this time on a virtual platform.
Given PinC’s success this year, I feel confident to hand over my responsibilities to Emily Neary, whose enthusiastic and proactive attitude as Vice-President will, I am sure, be carried over to her role as Chair. As always, PinC’s commitment to public philosophy will continue to motivate the organization in finding innovative solutions to the challenges which lie ahead.'