Good for charity

Here are four potential uses or scenarios for our new think tank. Remember that our approach is based on policy and research work being led by frontline public service practitioners and service users, primarily through an online community/social network. These scenarios are designed to give our potential partners and customers (starting with charities) a more tangible idea of the benefits that we think our approach could deliver. Some of the benefits derive from working much more closely with practitioners and the public, which is not something that think tanks do that often or that consistently. Other benefits stem from using an online community, social media etc to do research and policy work – and sometimes it’s a combination of the two. Let us know what you think.

Scenario #1 – A service provider charity wants to understand the gaps in provision in its sector. The charity commissions new think tank to produce a research report on unmet needs among users. Because the research is produced by and with users and practitioners, it includes genuine new insights. The research receives widespread media coverage and sparks ideas for a new service. The charity establishes a ‘virtual advisory board’ of service users to inform the development of the new service.

Scenario #2 – A campaigning charity wants to develop fresh ideas for a new strand of its policy work. The charity commissions new think tank to produce a ‘manifesto’ on what future policy should look like for its sector. The charity uses the new think tank platform to draft the manifesto collaboratively, with the participation of its operational and policy teams as well as service users and other campaigners. This provokes considerable public debate, and helps to promote the charity as a thought leader.

Scenario #3 – A charity wants to develop a response to a government consultation. The charity commissions new think tank to host a private, invite-only forum for its service users, stakeholders and peer organisations. This leads to ideas for a joint campaign. The charity is able to present itself with policymakers as a leading organisation in its sector, but also as a good collaborator.

Scenario #4 – A small charity is interested in commissioning research but lacks experience. The charity works with new think tank to scope its research project. Because it is based on ideas and suggestions from a large, knowledgeable community, the charity’s ITT is centred on a unique and interesting research question. The charity also receives suggestions for good researchers and partners for the project. The charity seeks support for the project through a crowd funding proposal on the new think tank site.

What other benefits do you think could be delivered through our approach? How else could our approach be used? Equally, what might be some of the downsides or problems of our approach – and how could we mitigate them?

2 Comments on “Good for charity”

  1. mistergough says:

    Scenario #1 to me is the most defined offer in that it focuses very clearly on service design and delivering solutions for end users. However it also seems least like what I’d expect a think tank to do. In many ways I like some of the possibilities offered by the remaining scenarios more, as they suggest precisely what I think is missing.

    The idea of a think tank that builds itself around an open model is an attractive one. The clear problem with think tanks, and one which you recognise, is that they are often heavily reliant on a fairly static pool of people with a specific set of experience and values. This doesn’t mean that they produce bad work but it does mean that their opinions and responses have a consistent flavour.

    The real opportunity is to use an open model with a strong focus on the end user to attempt to get to the heart of what really matters rather than to perpetuate a particular opinion. Using important tools like design thinking and open innovation to shape policy, research and consultation responses presents all sorts of potential benefits, above all that of placing the real needs of end users at the heart of top-level decision-making.

  2. Thanks for this comment mistergough – as ever other people’s comments help me to clarify my own thoughts, in this case that because of the largely static nature of think tank personnel (and their experience and values), it may be that many think tanks do little genuine thinking. There’s probably no better way to characterise what we’re trying to do here than develop a way to focus on the end user and their real needs, not what a particular think tank assumes are their needs, and to try to put this at the heart of policymaking. I also think though that if we can provide an accessible and flexible place for this to start happening, then members of the community will find all sorts of uses for it that we haven’t considered, in other words that it could be dynamic in all sorts of other ways that we hadn’t expected. Thanks for your thoughts.

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