‘Knowledge Underground’ sets scene for discourse on ideas

“Guyana is sort of an arid land when it comes to being able to discuss things,” Esther McIntosh of The Consultancy Group (TCG) says. “Many persons said they’ve never experienced something like this before in Guyana. That alone tells us that we’re on the right track.”

“The right track” as McIntosh told Stabroek News, refers to the “Knowledge Underground 2014,” an initiative launched by the TCG last month to present an in-house forum for Guyanese to discuss a multitude of ideas related to the environment, human rights, economics and culture.

Set in an intimate, “bottom house” setting, the forum aims to provide an unbiased outlet for discourse with no political affiliations.

A section of the audience during The Knowledge Underground 2014’s April 16 opening.
A section of the audience during The Knowledge Underground 2014’s April 16 opening.

“It’s very difficult to have a dialogue about something in the abstract sense without people trying to figure out which angle you’re coming from,” McIntosh noted. “We aim to find a way or create a space within our society which is neutral and which allows people who come from various backgrounds to be able to explore ideas and ultimately to explore knowledge. There are a lot of people generating knowledge but there’s not really a space for this knowledge to be showed to the wider Guyanese society.”

At its inauguration at Moray House on April 16, the forum featured three contrasting 20-minute presentations from not only Guyanese but also an American neurologist.

The original model, “Ideas Forum,” was conceptualised in 2012, with “The Knowledge Underground” being the company’s second attempt at such an undertaking.

McIntosh explained that the new forum worked on its predecessor’s shortcomings by being more accessible to a wider audience. Initially, the ideas forum had featured a think tank of persons from varying specialied fields. However, McIntosh pointed out, the presentations had been very technical and esoteric.

“It’s a first step and it’s quite exploratory, especially for some of the young persons we’re getting who are interested to come and talk. Maybe it won’t be a perfect presentation but as we go along it’ll get better,” McIntosh said.

The topics open for discussion are chosen from Time Magazine’s list of 100 greatest breakthroughs, inventions and theories in history and the choice of the list, McIntosh said, had been deliberate. “It’s not necessarily specific to Guyana; you can talk about evolution, for example, in a very abstract sense.”

However, she said, the topics can all relate to Guyana’s current situations. “Many of the problems – or the way even our society is run – is underpinned by ideas that we don’t even think about how they came about. Sometimes we’re not even aware about who we are, and the way our world is shaped by things that happened a long time ago,” McIntosh said. She continued, “Some of the ideas are varied and all 100 of them have something to do with Guyana; it’s just that we may not notice them right away.”

The presentations are not thematically linked and McIntosh explained that the forums provide an opportunity for persons to gain knowledge in varying areas at any one forum. “We want to intersperse; so if you’re not interested in the one topic you still sort of get an exposure to the idea,” she said.

The forums are open to interested presenters, even those who are not experts. “We want to encourage all to present and if there are persons in the audience who are more experienced then they can interact with the presenter and shed more light on the idea,” McIntosh said.

Though the forum’s first set of presentations had been a success in McIntosh’s eyes, she opined that more students should’ve been present for the discussions.

“We hope that ultimately the way people will rush to hear the latest singer … people will one day see it [the forum] in the same vein and as exciting.”

The next forum will be on May 29 from 5 pm at Moray House. Admission is free.



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