This blog showcases the development of a new independent social policy think tank – now called ‘Guerilla Policy’.

Here’s some Q&A about the project that we hope you find helpful.

What is Guerilla Policy?

Guerilla Policy is a project to develop a radically different approach to conducting policy and research work. In contrast to traditional think tanks, we want to develop a way for public service practitioners and service users to conduct research and policy analysis. These groups are at the frontline of public services and social issues, and as a result they have practical expertise and experience that could be used to improve social policy, especially to make policy more credible and pragmatic. We don’t think this has been done before (at least not on an ongoing, sustainable basis), but tell us if you think there are examples we should know about.

We’re particularly interested in using the internet to achieve this. We’re inspired by sites such as Wikipedia, InnoCentive, 38 Degrees, Netmums, Netbuddy and Mumsnet, which by building online communities have demonstrated the value of mass participation in areas previously regarded as the preserve of experts.

Why does this matter?

Our mission is to improve social policy and research work by working with frontline practitioners and service users. But it’s also a broader question of democracy and accountability; we think that the people who experience the effects of social policy should have the opportunity to help shape it. Another way of putting this is that policymaking – inside and outside government – should be much more about listening than it currently is.

Can practitioners and the public really conduct research and analyse policy?

While there are certainly specialist skills that some think tank experts have, we also think that with the right processes and support anyone can be involved in research and policy work. There’s a long history of practitioners leading research for example, and policy analysis is more of an informed art than it is a science.

Is Guerilla Policy a think tank?

We’ve worked in and around think tanks so that’s how we tend to view the world, but we’ve decided to call our project something other than a ‘think tank’, especially because few people know much about think tanks or what they do. Further, our approach to conducting policy and research work could be something we offer to other organisations – even other think tanks – rather than a separate organisation.

Who is behind the project?

Dr Michael Harris founded and leads Guerilla Policy. He is a leading social policy researcher who has worked in academia, central government, local government and education. His focus has been on improvement and innovation in public services, especially through the participation of frontline workers and the public.

Chris Sherwood co-founded Guerilla Policy. Chris is also Director of Policy and Research at Relate and has previously worked for a think tank, local government and the third sector. His focus has been on innovation and service improvement in welfare to work, family support and social care.

Charley Radcliffe is the owner of Medium Rare Digital and brings his technical experience to the table. He is passionate about creating and developing innovative web platforms having worked with commercial and social enterprises alike to build the tools they need.

We’re also talking to a range of partners about their involvement in the project.

What issues will we focus on?

We think that our approach could be used across social policy – from health to education, youth services to care for older people. Within these areas, it might be more appropriate for some issues and questions than others, but we’ll only really learn this by doing it.

We’re also different from many think tanks in that we don’t have a particular agenda or political position of our own that we want to promote. Our only ‘philosophy’ is that the people who experience the effects of social policy should have the opportunity to help shape it.

Who is Guerilla Policy aimed at?

One of the benefits of our approach is that it could provide a platform for many more charities and community groups to conduct credible and cost-effective research, which could serve to increase their impact, inform better policy and so improve lives. We think that if we can lower the cost of commissioning policy and research work, and make it more accessible to organisations and individuals that haven’t done it before, then we can create a much bigger market for this work, and so increase and diversify the range of voices in policy.

Have you got funding?

We’re looking for seed funding from a number of sources. But we also want our new think tank to be financially sustainable rather than dependent on a small number of wealthy funders. To this end, we need to ensure that it meets the real needs of the organisations that we hope will commission it. In other words, we want to develop a product that a lot of people will actually want to buy. We’re also investigating a range of other possible business models and sources of revenue – including crowd funding.

When is Guerilla Policy launching?

We’re taking a different approach to starting a think tank. We’re deliberately launching before we’re ‘ready‘, because we think that the best thing to do is to get the idea out there and invite others to help us improve and refine it. It also hopefully means that the values behind the project – openness, transparency and accessibility – are reflected in how we go about developing it.

What do you want people to do?

We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions, so please do:

We’d also welcome your participation and support, especially if you’re a frontline professional (whether in the public, voluntary or private sector), a service user, a charity or a funder.

Thanks for your interest in our project – and get involved.

7 Comments on “About”

  1. I think this is a great idea. Why should the internet not do to public policy – what it has done to music, news, and soon film and tv – revolutionise it!

  2. […] organisation called New Think Tank has done a ranking of UK think tank personnel, ranked by their number of Twitter followers. I come […]

    • Thanks Nicholas for pointing out that your position on the top think tank tweeters list (at number 23 – congratulations) in affiliation with Chatham House relates to your work with its Africa programme as opposed to your current main theme on tax havens. Congratulations on the blog http://treasureislands.org/ as well, it’s a really good and useful read.

  3. hilarysutcliffe says:

    Hello, good luck with your work. I like a lot the idea that:

    “the people who experience the effects of social policy should have the opportunity to help shape it.” is at the heart of our work on Responsible Innovation and our latest project called Society Inside®. We focus in particular on business and university research with innovative technologies (nanotech, synbio etc), though seek to influence policy in those areas also.

    I think it is a bit fringe for you, but if that ever looks like an interesting area, do get in touch. I always thought it was a natural for NESTA who should have done more in that area.

    We also toyed with the Think Tank/Do Tank/Action Tank/NGO/consultancy label. I decided to be flexible and whatever fit the bill with whatever I wanted to do at the time! The good thing about the NGO label is that it has a bit more action/agency to it, whereas think tanks sometimes seem to me very passive and distant, thinking often takes you only so far, doing is the thing which makes change. I like the work that Involve does for that reason, but I suppose they are really a consultancy.

    So good luck, and thanks for the motivational start to the day, very cheering!

    • Thanks Hilary – your comment was motivating for me as well! The Responsible Innovation project looks very valuable, and you’re right that it’s an area that Nesta and others could focus more on. I agree with what you say about the label ‘think tank’, and I suspect many people would. It’s noticeable the number of think tanks that now emphasise ‘think and do’, although I think there’s much more scope to be directly engaged with the issues they research (I notice you’ve gone for ‘action tank’ to describe Matter). Great blog, by the way (Hilary blogs at: http://www.matterforall.org/blog/), and good luck with your work – I certainly think we could learn from some of the approaches and arguments you’ve put forward for science and new technologies, and consider their equivalents for social policy.

  4. hilarysutcliffe says:

    That’s very kind of you Michael, thanks! Love to have a coffee if it looks like a good use of time to you.


  5. That’s very kind of you Michael, thanks! Love to have a coffee sometime if it looks like a good use of time to you.


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