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Inaugural The Exchange events spark passionate discussion and support good causes

The inaugural Exchange event

Tom Furnival-Adams of the Alumni Relations team at Sussex with Jo Cutler (middle) and Al Tomlins (right)

Sussex recently launched a new initiative called The Exchange. Conceived by the University’s External Relations division, The Exchange encourages the sharing of ideas as well as promoting free expression and lively debate. Via a series of live events and digital content, a diverse selection of individuals are given a forum in which to spark energetic discussions and offer fresh perspectives on issues that they are passionate about.

We need to talk about ‘snowflakes’

The first The Exchange event was hosted at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts – complete with dimly lit fuchsia pink exterior to mark the occasion. The panel discussion focused on the debate surrounding the term ‘Generation Snowflake’ and whether the concept actually exists as it is portrayed in the media.

Profits from ticket sales for this event went directly to support the University’s Sussex Fund, which helps students facing financial hardship, struggling with mental health issues or experiencing other difficulties.

Chaired by Senior Lecturer in Media Studies and Digital Media, Dr Sharif Mowlabocus, the four panellists were:

  • Solomon Curtis – Former Sussex student, Labour candidate for Brighton Pavilion in the 2017 general election and Communications Manager at the Mayor of London’s Office;
  • Grace Campbell – Writer, comedian and activist. Also co-founded The Pink Protest, a community platform for female activism and home to the #freeperiods campaign;
  • Alon Harshak – Former Sussex student and freelance educator and researcher working on various projects supporting refugees and asylum seekers;
  • Edward Wilson – Current Politics and International Relations student and former Vice-President of the Conservative Society. He was an active member of Liberate the Debate, the free speech student society.

In a packed auditorium, the panellists explored key points in the current debate, tackling the origins of the phrase and, in light of its heavy circulation in printed media and online, whether it actually had any meaning in the lives of young people. Prompting genuine in-depth and well-rounded discussion, the panel took questions from the 250-strong audience throughout the debate.

You can find more information about the work of the Sussex Fund as well as how to make a gift to the Fund on our website.

The Exchange at Small Batch: A cup of kindness

Sussex alumnus and founder of Small Batch Coffee Roasters, Al Tomlins, generously hosted the second in The Exchange series of events at his Norfolk Square branch.

Billed as an evening of coffee and conversation, Al discussed the concept of kindness with Jo Cutler from the Social Decision Lab at Sussex.

Jo recently co-authored a major study looking at brain activity during decisions on whether or not to be kind, using techniques from psychology and neuroscience to find out how our brains and bodies react when we encounter someone in need. Jo and her fellow scientists found that kindness activated the brain's reward network, resulting in a "warm glow" of giving.

Aptly timed to coincide with the approaching holiday season, the sell-out event saw Jo enlighten the audience about the factors that can increase or decrease the feel good effect of giving and of kindness. Al joined the discussion by explaining what motivates him to give on a personal level, as well as what prompted him to enter into a collaboration with the University of Sussex in support of our Preventing podo campaign.

Podoconiosis (more commonly referred to as podo) is an easily cured but devastating and widespread tropical disease. As there are more recorded cases of podo in Ethiopia, where the origins of coffee have been traced back to, Al spoke of his affinity with the cause and how he had seized the opportunity to get Small Batch involved with Sussex’s campaign to raise funds and awareness.

You can read more about podo on our website, where you will also be able to make a gift  in support of our Preventing podo campaign.

For details of future The Exchange events visit

By: Emma Wigmore
Last updated: Thursday, 10 January 2019