But hasn’t this been done before?

There’s one question I’ve been asked more than any other about our project to develop a new think tank where practitioners and the public conduct research and policy analysis: ‘But hasn’t this been done before?’

The simple answer, to my knowledge, is ‘no’ – but please tell me if I’m wrong. At least I’m certain that if it has been done, it hasn’t become the norm in the way that think tanks work.

There are research projects that involve practitioners and the public of course (which I’ll be returning to in later posts). There’s action research and peer-led research, which is pretty well established in fields such as education and medicine. There’s citizens’ juries and community participatory budgeting. And there’s crowdsourcing of policy ideas, as well as more familiar policy consultation exercises.

The P2P Foundation has a really useful page on ‘peer production of public policy’ that lists some previous examples of crowdsourced policy, including the Future Melbourne Community Plan, the Netroots Nation Platform, and the Canadian Policy Wiki. There must be many, many others.

But I’m not aware – yet – of a viable, ongoing social policy think tank run along lines equivalent to open source software development, which is what we’re exploring here. In other words, Sourceforge for social policy, where the projects start and finish with the community. Are you?

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