What is a ‘next generation’ think tank?

One of the things I’ll be discussing on this blog is the future of think tanks. This isn’t an academic project though, since this blog will also report on the practical business of building a new think tank, with all of its ups and downs, false steps and (I hope) successes along the way.

I’m starting with an idea. But I’m also starting with a question, namely what happens if we try to design a think tank without any of the traditional assumptions about how they are organised, how they are funded, who participates in their research etc? In short, what should think tanks look like today?

My initial response to this question – and the reason I’m excited about this project – comes down to three (related) thoughts:

  • Think tanks could be meaningful vehicles for public involvement in public policy – in an age of mass participation, the notion of closed, hierarchically organised expertise seems increasingly outdated;
  • Think tanks could be open and transparent – from how they are funded and who sets their agenda, to how they conduct research and how they derive their findings and recommendations, and this could improve their work and enhance their impact;
  • The internet, social media etc could help us achieve both of these things – after all, who would have believed only a few years’ ago that an encyclopedia could be written collaboratively by thousands of unpaid volunteers, or that major companies would use the internet to invite solutions to some of their most complex technological problems?

So, what does a next generation think tank look like?

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