Raising the Bar Sydney / Written by Jennifer Jamie Irawan
Amidst the rain and mid-week blues, twenty of Australia’s brightest minds were spread across the city to light the spark of curiosity for Sydneysiders; part of a worldwide initiative to broaden the way we consume content. The pioneering efforts of Raising the Bar aims to demystify the space of the institution as being something far removed from the rest of the world. Raising the Bar is an event held on 1 night, in 20 bars, with 20 brilliant academics escaping their lecture theatres and laboratories to instead ‘raise the bar’ on educational content and make it accessible for everyone.
I started my night a world away from the humble streetscape of Regent Street, at Freda’s which was vibrant with chatter as beers began to be poured and seats were taken. The speaker at this venue, Agnieszka Tymula is a neuroeconomist and lecturer at the University of Sydney and on this occasion she discussed the surprising reasons we take risks.Looking at the trends that influence our decisions, Agnieszka brings together economics, psychology and neuroscience to build better models of decision-making.
“When I say I’m an economist, most people think that I study inflation, interest rates, banks, financial crisis – not at all… When an economist analyses the studies that psychologists have done aimed to measure risk taking, a red light comes up and what we see is much more than risk taking. We see optimism and things that are confounded in the tasks that psychologists use to measure adolescent behaviour.”
Agnieszka went on to discuss the difference in risk-taking behaviour between adolescents and seniors, breaking down the brain functions involved in our decision-making processes. She then opened her talk up for conversation, and it wasn’t long before the questions began to kick off.
It is in those moments of audience engagement that the community of like-minded creatives fulfilled the Raising the Bar goal. People in the audience were given back the discretion to question, to be inspired, and to be stimulated in a non-threatening environment. They escaped the passive audience experience and scripted narratives seen in classrooms and lecture halls.
I’ve grown up seeing the value in education, understanding that it was a cornerstone in my life to be able to find my passions, interests and more importantly fuel curiosity. I began to see that curiosity is the engine of achievement.
Initiatives like Raising the Bar bring to the fore the importance of innovation and diversity within education.By reaching out to luminaires, we are given the opportunity to cultivate free-flowing knowledge and raise the bar in the things that we talk about, become passionate about, are provoked by and find ourselves engaged in.
With over 1,200 people responding to the event on Facebook and a team of 95 members of staff and students working towards the event, it was a huge success (trending above the new Star Wars trailer – yes, you heard me).
I can’t wait to see how Raising the Bar becomes bigger and better with each year.