One of the breakout sessions, reported back by Warren, was on the possible approach to political engagement, should this be a path we choose. The key question seemed to be, given the objective to find a way of transforming education so that it adequately addresses the reality of the crisis and its various dimensions (economic, environmental, accountability and dehumanisation) is it still worth trying to shape policy from within the formal political parties or, if not, engaging more broadly with groups and constituencies within civil society. It might be useful if those participating in this discussion could edit this page and fill out some of the discussion that took place. To get the ball rolling...

It was observed that think tanks, some independent, of various sorts had been extremely influential in representing interests and influencing policy at government level. These think tanks usually play a long game, i.e. current health and education policies (front door and back door privatisation strategies) were a long time in preparation while the conservative party was in opposition and long before then. One possibility for this group is to organise and strategise along the lines of a think tank. This might mean the informal and selective use of some features of extant think tanks as a model of organisation and engagement. It may lead to a formally constituted think tank in due course. Either way, the suggestion is not that the group/network becomes a think tank. It would be one activity or strategy amongst others, if at all.

Some research would be necessary on think tanks – how they are constituted, organised, their modes of development and engagement with publics and political institutions and organisations. A good place to start is Adam Curtis's epic blogpost/story on the history of thinktanks from the 1950s to the present day There is a useful list of current UK thinktanks based on website popularity by New Think Tank (who are launching later this year, although I haven't quite got a handle on what they are doing from their website).

There may be features that we decide are inimical to our objectives and ethos but others we could usefully learn from or emulate. Examples might be Policy Exchange (the neocon attack dog, apparently Cameron's favourite - extensive, useful history here), The Centre for Policy Studies (Thatcher and Joseph), Civitas, Compass (more... http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/1576447/The-top-twelve-think-tanks-in-Britain.html). The Higher Education Policy Institute"is the UK's only independent think tank devoted exclusively to higher education". Some of these may be worth approaching and engaging with.

EDIT 16/4 WP: Mark Carrigan (who I suggest would be a good person to invite to a future #e4c meeting) wrote interesting, critical summary of role of right-wing think tanks in Coalition's agenda, noting how the erosion of the mainstream media's business models (fewer staff and checking of facts) increases the chances of think tank press releases and opinions being reprinted uncritically. The TPA have set the gold standard in this, illustrated by the number of current news stories quoting them.


A kind of think tank, but who seem to focus more on do-ing than think-ing is the Young Foundation, can't vouch for their work but the ethos crosses over with the discussion we had about showcasing good practice and linking it to academic evidence.

This discussion seemed to overlap with discussions other groups were having - should we try to constitute ourselves as a network of some sort, should we set ourselves up as a research group, could we as a group with a wide variety of expertise as doers (who think) and thinkers (who do) set up a speaker panel or circuit, how can we support freelance and independent practitioners and scholars...? We could continue the discussion here if anyone is interested. If any sort of consensus should emerge on this and this takes off into any sort of activity I would be happy to take a share of whatever it takes to make progress (Terry).

Political Parties (Warren)
A quick note on the state of the parties, inspired by the idea that it might be easier to influence a lot of these than one might think. I'm highlighting potential points of influence, sympathetic ears within parties.

Greens: maybe the most obvious choice, certainly re environment/resource issues, and have steadily grown in power in recent years (MP, MEPs, councillors and are largest party in Brighton council). Education policy is here.

Pirate Party: seem to be gaining ground in Germany and other parts of Europe. Say they are not on traditional left-right spectrum. Pushing openness and technologically literate policy agenda. There's a good FT article on them I've archived here, and a great one in Spiegel on how they are organised called "The Politics of Shitstorms", a phrase that might tie in with E4C! Also noted that Vinay Gupta, who you may be familiar with as @leashless, has joined up with them in UK.

Conservatives: the current formation of capitalism has been attacked from the left and the right within the Tory party. Zac Goldsmith echoed the call for 'responsible capitalism' (whatever that is).

Labour: Ed Miliband has a solid background on the environment, having been Sec for Climate Change and Energy, and also dabbled with the responsible capitalism ideas.

Mark Carrigan