A Lecturer in Law at the University of Dundee has been named Scotland and Northern Ireland Young Thinker of the Year for 2011 for her ideas on how to 'rethink the recession'.
Kirsteen Shields (28), originally from Glasgow, was awarded the title by the Young Scotland and Northern Ireland Programme, the organisation founded by the journalist Kenneth Roy.
Kirsteen's presentation focused on how a four-day working week could distribute the hardships of the recession and create a fairer society. The judges praised her for `an intellectually impressive paper, distinguished by its authority and good writing.’
'I am always glad to discuss my ideas and it is great to have been given an award for doing just that.' said Kirsteen, who has been a lecturer in the School of Law at Dundee since September 2010. 'I firmly believe that in order to weather the recession and come out the other side as a humane society we must apply creative problem-solving to manage the consequences of the recession. My proposal presented the recession as an opportunity to redress inequality and to restructure society for the better.'
'The thinking behind this is that unless we do something to distribute the hardships of the recession then inequality will continue to grow and we will likely see more social unrest. A four-day working week is something that could lead us to greater equality and that is its key strength. If we choose to listen to them, the 'happiness' researchers have been telling us that we want a fairer society, not a richer one. Even the highest earners within society cannot buy lower crime rates or healthier communities.
'A four-day working week would restore a greater degree of equality across society.'
Kirsteen also headed the group which won the prize for 'Best discussion group' . Their presentation was described as 'a piece of theatre' and 'a highly creative interpretation of the photograph, pulled off very successfully'. Kirsteen was also one amongst three participants to receive special praise for their 'On The Spot' presentation.
The Young UK and Ireland Programme exists to develop the communication skills of people in the early stages of their working lives or who are performing voluntary work in the community. It does so through an annual series of residential courses and competitions of between two and four days' duration.
The centrepiece of each event is the presentation of a 900-word paper, 'Argument', on a topic - of the delegate's or the team's own choice - 'of current interest or controversy'. The programme aims to encourage the research, writing and presentational abilities of delegates. It is in its 9th year and is open to anyone in the formative years of his or her career, irrespective of age.
Founder Kenneth Roy describes the purpose of the program as being 'to encourage and engage a neglected group in our society - people who have left full-time education and are now building careers. Young people of Inveramsay, in rural Aberdeenshire in the distant 1920s, converted a shack on the platform of their railway station into a meeting place they called Utopia, and talked long into the night. They inhabited a different world, long before further and higher education became almost as plentiful as tap water. But their idealism and independent spirit go on inspiring our programme. We can all build a shack we call Utopia, if not on the station platform, then in our hearts and minds.'