The Art of the Possible – 2nd March 2006

…the art of the possible…

Article printed in the IS Magazine, March 2006 – download as a pdf by clicking here.

So, what is Go Dundee all about?


Go Dundee! doesn’t fit any conventional model – think about it this way, you put a dozen leaders/community representatives/entrepreneurs in a room together and what you get is, well, Go Dundee!

It’s all very organic, imprecise and ambiguous, but surprisingly effective at generating ideas and getting things done. Go Dundee! is non-sectarian, apolitical and completely autonomous, what connects us is a passion for Dundee – its people, its achievements and its future.

From a small beginning, we are growing into a network of like minded people passionate about making Dundee an even more positive and optimistic place to be – building on our strengths and successes.

On the 2nd March 2006 a group of people gathered at the Apex Hotel for Go Dundee II. We had some excellent speakers and great conversations, reflecting on the good things that are happening in the city of Dundee and surrounding region.

The day was framed as ‘the art of the possible’ – with some feedback on what has happened since the launch event last year. Some outstanding speakers – with the opportunity to engage in further conversations around how we can make a difference in the City.

Making it possible: Sir Alan Langlands, Principal of Dundee University


Sir Alan kicked off the event with a review of some of the very positive things that are happening in the city, mainly but not exclusively connected to Dundee as a learning city, and Dundee University’s contribution to this working in partnership with the City Council, Industry and other stakeholders.

He was clear that, while it was important for Dundee University to succeed and build on it’s world class reputation in some fields, the goal for him and his colleagues was not simply income generation for the Institution, but the University playing it’s part in the ongoing development of the city/region.

His stimulating talk, punctuated by great stories and even ‘cool’ images outlined what we need to ‘make it possible’. One of the stories he told was of discovering unpublished photos’ of the Beatles in the archives of the University. He also shared on some of the exciting work to help eliminate sleeping sickness in Africa – a project the big Pharmaceutical Companies had not addressed as there was not enough return in it for them.

If we are going to make it possible, he challenged us firstly to “define our goal(s)”. Then identify “what do you need to make it happen?” or in other words, “identify your ingredients”.

He then went on to highlight for him the three essential ingredients:

  1. Great people
  2. High aspirations
  3. A good plan

He finished his talk by further challenging us not to leave it to others, but to get involved and take responsibility to “make it happen”.

World Café – Positive stories of success in Dundee


The 100 or so delegates, from all walks of life – then shared stories of positive things that have happened in the city over the past year. This generated a real ‘buzz’ as people learned some of the exciting developments across all aspects of city life – some directly connected to Go Dundee, others not. The themes from these stories will be posted on the website in the next week or so. See for more details.

Lia Ghilardi: Author & International Researcher on Cultural Development


Lia presented her ideas thinking ‘Culturally’ about development of cities. Her ideas were very stimulating, challenging and thought provoking! She shared her research and findings on city regeneration projects across the world, highlighting pitfalls and problems to avoid.

She highlighted the danger of city development creating ‘divided’ cities – and was not afraid to speak her mind in some in controversial areas. She also encouraged us to see the development of Dundee as a holistic, joined up process. Linked to the mainstream of public policy, and rooted in the local context of the city’s unique cultural roots and history.

DVD summary of some good news stories from Dundee over the last year.

We saw a brilliant DVD, sponsored by the Xplore partnership, where mentors and people working with them told their stories about some significant achievements, both small and great, across all parts of the city. Developing ideas and making it happen with a positive atmosphere in the Embrionix unit of Abertay University. There were inspirational stories, a young woman sharing how mentoring in the Peer Education Project had helped her. A great initiative lead by Dorothy Dobson on exercise for the over 60’s which is having a real impact on health and wellbeing. In that area there was a great story from the Dundee Healthy Living Initiative, on how relationships through this project have made a significant difference in peoples lives, helping them make more positive heath choices. There was also a wonderful story combining the skills of art and biology in forensic archaeology at Dundee University.

Enterprise Anarchist Iain Scott: “Taking the First Step”

Iain Scott entertained us with whacky stories of lobsters and Victorians. And while we were all laughing, we learned that we can all become entrepreneurs. It’s not (just) about making money, but having the courage to do something you are passionate about. Entrepreneurs…

  1. TALK about their ideas – then they…
  2. TEST them. Moving from talking to action. They also…
  3. TEST SELF, they are not afraid to have a go and learn by doing. What else? They…
  4. GATHER INFORMATION AND SKILLS – don’t underestimate the ‘information officer’ in your local authority or enterprise company. They are non-judgemental and give you what you need – information without opinion!
  5. And, if they… GET A SHOCK. A setback, a challenge, a difficulty – that kicks them up the rear end, but also kicks in determination and resilience. “I can do this!!” is the response – which moves the idea to action, with determination. “The challenge or criticism is just what I needed to realise that I really believe in my idea!”

Committing to Action

Finally, delegates entered another café session where people explored areas they wanted to make a difference in the city – in some of the key themed areas that emerged from the initial Go Dundee event last year, or to create some other ideas or themes that people want to make a contribution.

The outcome of this is a list of names and ideas in these areas, and the Go Dundee team will feed back this information to the delegates who have committed to take action.

Go Dundee is not an exclusive group – so why not get involved? Check out the web page for up to date information.

Joe Lafferty, 17th March, 2006

(updated 10/06/08 by JL)