proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

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proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby azrael » Mon May 24, 2010 11:47 pm

I've been thinking about this for a while, and decided to put it off until after the general election, so this seems like a good point to dredge it up from the back of my mind.

I wanted to gather a few academically minded people together to work on a selection of essays which we could then 'publish' (perhaps even as a real book) as a set. These would go some way towards thinking through and discussing who we are, what we think, and what we stand for. This would serve to both give us a clearer image of ourselves, and to present a well argued description of ourselves to others. I scribbled down in my notebook the titles of these essays, planning to put out a call to skilled and/or willing thinkers/writers to pick an essay each, with me taking the hard/easy task of nudging people along and editing it together as a single well conceived entity. This roaring success would then be possibly followed by more such work. ;)

I think however we can actually be a little bolder. I still want to go ahead with my call for authors of essays, however I think it would be better done within the context of a more formalised entity. To shamelessly (and maybe out of context) grab a quote from another thread:

epriezka wrote:What I'd like to see is that we start realizing this internet forum is badly underpowered as an environment to work out a coherent position on genuinely complicated topics. You know, the kind of genuinely complicated topics that stem from new technology, a changing world, that sort of stuff.


With this in mind, I think it would be a great idea to create a think tank oriented towards investing time and thought into 'genuinely complicated topics' and arrive at a coherent position. Importantly this is not a PPUK policy group I want to form, and the product of such a think tank should not be regarded as PPUK opinion or policy. Rather, instead, as the opinion of an entity which regards itself as sharing and holding PPUK's values. It would be up to the PPUK to choose or ignore any 'research' product of such a think tank. Likewise the think tank would not be limited to PPUK policy areas.

I don't want a totally open free for all for coming up with PPUK policy, I want a closed-circle of like-minded individuals formalising their own thoughts into a coherent argument, and presenting it for consideration to the outside world. I would hope that the PPUK members would look upon such a product and say "yes, that explains exactly what we think", at which point the free for all open discussion could begin.

(I have thought long and hard about whether I'm actually suggesting is just a backwards, old fashioned, closed off discussion that is the opposite of what we should be doing. I don't think so, but if no-one agrees with me that this think tank is a good idea, I may have to think again.)

To get this off the ground I am looking for a group of people (preferably who think this is a good idea) to get in touch with me (either by a reply here or via pm) and we can start formalising the shape and form of this proposed entity. As I believe a set of essays would be a good starting point, I am initially most interested in those skilled at academic research and writing. Beyond that anyone wanting to exercise their brain is also welcome.

I even have what I think is a good name for the think tank. But I shall tantalise and leave that for later.
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Re: proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby cabalamat » Tue May 25, 2010 12:50 am

azrael wrote:I wanted to gather a few academically minded people together to work on a selection of essays which we could then 'publish' (perhaps even as a real book) as a set.


Kind of like the Lib Dems' Orange Book? Count me in.
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Re: proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby azrael » Tue May 25, 2010 1:04 am

Yes, I think that's exactly the sort of thing I am thinking of, at least as a starting point :)
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Re: proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby AndrewTindall » Tue May 25, 2010 7:39 am

oh how i hate that orange book and what it stands for...
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Re: proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby martindevans » Tue May 25, 2010 12:56 pm

I think that's a great idea. It's doesn't limit the PPUK or its members is any way, but it does create new lines of thought to consider and establish a more solid position for the PPUK to adopt (if it wishes).

I'm not a fan of writing essays, but I am a fan of thinking about things ;). I would love to be involved in background research and discussion for this group.
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Re: proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby cabalamat » Tue May 25, 2010 1:34 pm

andrewtindall wrote:oh how i hate that orange book and what it stands for...


May I ask why?
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Re: proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby cabalamat » Tue May 25, 2010 3:44 pm

azrael wrote:I want a closed-circle of like-minded individuals formalising their own thoughts into a coherent argument, and presenting it for consideration to the outside world.


Would you be wanting to limit this to PPUK members? I expect there are members of other pirate parties -- and people who haven't yet joined a pirate party but are broadly on our side -- who have some interesting ideas.

I would hope that the PPUK members would look upon such a product and say "yes, that explains exactly what we think",


I'd be almost as happy if people said "I don't quite agree with all that, but there are some interesting ideas in it".

To get this off the ground I am looking for a group of people (preferably who think this is a good idea) to get in touch with me (either by a reply here or via pm) and we can start formalising the shape and form of this proposed entity. As I believe a set of essays would be a good starting point,


I am certainly up for that. I actually have some mostly-written essays already, that could easily be polished up. If we publish the essays in a book, it would probably make sense to use a Creative Commons license for it.

I even have what I think is a good name for the think tank. But I shall tantalise and leave that for later.


And what shall we call the book? "The Pirate Book", perhaps?
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Re: proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby MonkeyJam » Tue May 25, 2010 4:19 pm

cabalamat wrote:
azrael wrote:I even have what I think is a good name for the think tank. But I shall tantalise and leave that for later.


And what shall we call the book? "The Pirate Book", perhaps?


The Turquoise book! I would be great if we could actually print these and sell them to members, or even just give them out 'membership-pack-esque'

Definately a really good idea. I hope it all comes together, but currently essays are the bain of my life, so I hope you don't mind if I do not become a writer, but willing to help in whatever else.

How about "Freedom in the Digital Age - What it has become and how to get it."
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Re: proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby WilliamFS » Tue May 25, 2010 4:25 pm

-
I always thought that people relied too much on this forum and hoped to achieve too much though it. I have suggested the idea of a think tank nine months ago : viewtopic.php?f=11&t=643

The fact that such similar idea is now proposed again is just further illustration of the forum inadequacy. It is a conveyor belt into oblivion, and a wasteful medium in general.

In retrospect, it is quite ironic that when I proposed the think tank, some people opposed it worried that it would divert attention way from the forum. I have also tried my best to come up with and pursued people about more useful/cumulative ways of using the forum. But oh well...
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Re: proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby scuzzmonkey » Tue May 25, 2010 4:35 pm

"steal this book"

obvious, and bad...but :P
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Re: proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby samgower » Tue May 25, 2010 5:19 pm

Provided that any proposals to arise from the project are not fast-tracked into party policy, and that it remains the party at large that debates and chooses policies (be online or offline), then I see no problem with this. In fact, I'd be interested in contributing.
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Re: proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby martindevans » Tue May 25, 2010 6:10 pm

cabalamat wrote:
azrael wrote:I want a closed-circle of like-minded individuals formalising their own thoughts into a coherent argument, and presenting it for consideration to the outside world.


Would you be wanting to limit this to PPUK members? I expect there are members of other pirate parties -- and people who haven't yet joined a pirate party but are broadly on our side -- who have some interesting ideas.


It would be fantastic to set up an international think tank. This is a global issue after all...
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Re: proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby azrael » Tue May 25, 2010 6:55 pm

cabalamat wrote:Would you be wanting to limit this to PPUK members? I expect there are members of other pirate parties -- and people who haven't yet joined a pirate party but are broadly on our side -- who have some interesting ideas.


martindevans wrote:It would be fantastic to set up an international think tank. This is a global issue after all...


Actually I'd rather PPUK membership wasn't a requirement. Then it is much clearer that it isn't just a sub-entity of the PPUK. It makes sense, at some point, to restrict membership to, for example, those that share the same ideals as the think tank and can contribute to it etc etc. I don't think that now however is an appropriate time to be restrictive in such a way. As such international membership is as welcome as any.

cabalamat wrote:I am certainly up for that. I actually have some mostly-written essays already, that could easily be polished up. If we publish the essays in a book, it would probably make sense to use a Creative Commons license for it.


I visualise the first 'book' following a certain set of topics. But anyone with essays that match up to that would be welcome to submit or rework them. Any essays that fall into different areas would however still be welcomed for future 'books' or stand-alone releases.

cabalamat wrote:And what shall we call the book? "The Pirate Book", perhaps?


monkeyjam wrote:The Turquoise book! I would be great if we could actually print these and sell them to members, or even just give them out 'membership-pack-esque'


I suspect the book might be nicknamed all manner of things. It would need a more appropriate formal title though ;)

As for distribution, I could see a think tank distributing for free if it found some other way to finance the publication. Alternatively sale of the product could attempt to make a profit that the think tank could invest in further projects, or for donation to the PPUK.

samgower wrote:Provided that any proposals to arise from the project are not fast-tracked into party policy, and that it remains the party at large that debates and chooses policies (be online or offline), then I see no problem with this. In fact, I'd be interested in contributing.


With my party member hat on, I'd be rather offended if 'external' ideas got fast-tracked without the same level of party discussion and democracy as we're used to.
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Re: proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby azrael » Tue May 25, 2010 6:56 pm

williamfs wrote:-
I always thought that people relied too much on this forum and hoped to achieve too much though it. I have suggested the idea of a think tank nine months ago : viewtopic.php?f=11&t=643

The fact that such similar idea is now proposed again is just further illustration of the forum inadequacy. It is a conveyor belt into oblivion, and a wasteful medium in general.
--


I certainly plead guilty to not being as good a forum user as I maybe ought to be. I hadn't noticed your other post. They say great minds think alike, does that mean i can count you in on being interested?
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Re: proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby cabalamat » Tue May 25, 2010 8:57 pm

azrael wrote:
cabalamat wrote:I am certainly up for that. I actually have some mostly-written essays already, that could easily be polished up. If we publish the essays in a book, it would probably make sense to use a Creative Commons license for it.


I visualise the first 'book' following a certain set of topics.


Do you have a set of topics in mind?

monkeyjam wrote:The Turquoise book! I would be great if we could actually print these and sell them to members, or even just give them out 'membership-pack-esque'


I think printed copies would be something that people would have to buy. There's no reason the text couldn't be downloadable, in addition.

As for distribution, I could see a think tank distributing for free if it found some other way to finance the publication. Alternatively sale of the product could attempt to make a profit that the think tank could invest in further projects, or for donation to the PPUK.


PPUK could do with the money.

samgower wrote:Provided that any proposals to arise from the project are not fast-tracked into party policy, and that it remains the party at large that debates and chooses policies (be online or offline), then I see no problem with this. In fact, I'd be interested in contributing.


With my party member hat on, I'd be rather offended if 'external' ideas got fast-tracked without the same level of party discussion and democracy as we're used to.


So would I be -- policy should be determined by the party membership, not some secretive cabal.
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Re: proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby borgs8472 » Tue May 25, 2010 9:00 pm

Steve, I wonder if its your position in acedemia that lends your interests towards essays as a goal?

I would have more interest in producing things slighty more tangible. ( like my electronic voting idea : ) ). Can you tell me what else the think tank might produce?
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Re: proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby azrael » Tue May 25, 2010 9:39 pm

borgs8472 wrote:Steve, I wonder if its your position in academia that lends your interests towards essays as a goal?


Possibly ;) though I wouldn't call myself an academic :D

borgs8472 wrote:I would have more interest in producing things slightly more tangible. ( like my electronic voting idea : ) ). Can you tell me what else the think tank might produce?


There is nothing more tangible than an idea that changes someone's mind! ;) (and if I'm not actually quoting anyone there, remember you heard it here first!)

If you look at think tanks such as the fabian society and the adam smith institute they put a lot of effort into producing reports, papers, suggestions for government policy etc. etc. with particular political orientations (left and right respectively). The great advantage of a think tank is the ability to freely discuss and produce advice and reports on all matter of things which might be out of the normal remit of a political party, especially one like ours with such a narrow policy focus.

Let me pluck two random ;) examples out of the air, 'net neutrality' and 'transhumanism'. Someone with a particular interest in one of these topics might want to chat with a few like minded people, do some research, and then publish a paper or set of essays going into detail explaining exactly what the issues are surrounding their chosen topic, and providing suggested policy advice on how to advance a certain view point. Aspiring politicians of a similar opinion but lacking time to do their own research can then latch on to the product of the think tank and try to drum up policy support for it in their party.

In an ideal world a think tank would have significant funding from private interested sources, and be able to employ a team of highly competent academic staff to undertake directed research that were of interest to the particular think tank. A think tank lacking such funding and relying more on volunteers would be a little broader focused and maybe produce not quite so high quality material ;) (i.e. we might not get the likes of Gordon Brown or David Blunkett writing for it).
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Re: proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby martindevans » Tue May 25, 2010 9:52 pm

azrael wrote:Actually I'd rather PPUK membership wasn't a requirement. Then it is much clearer that it isn't just a sub-entity of the PPUK. It makes sense, at some point, to restrict membership to, for example, those that share the same ideals as the think tank and can contribute to it etc etc. I don't think that now however is an appropriate time to be restrictive in such a way. As such international membership is as welcome as any.


This is what I meant by my post above, obviously I didn't make myself clear, sorry.

borgs8472 wrote:Steve, I wonder if its your position in academia that lends your interests towards essays as a goal?

I would have more interest in producing things slightly more tangible. ( like my electronic voting idea : ) ). Can you tell me what else the think tank might produce?


The party is the place for actual tangible actions and policies, a think tank is for (clue is in the name ;) ) thinking. For example, a think tank might explore all the ramifications of electronic voting, leaving it up to the party to decide if they want to adopt it or not - possibly depending upon if the think tank considers it a practical idea in their report.
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Re: proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby azrael » Tue May 25, 2010 10:19 pm

I guess there is a fine line between a think tank producing a piece of work that suggests a policy, and a political party internally discussing and arriving at a policy decision. A think tank might aspire to producing work of sufficient quality and credibility that their product would be taken up by a political party and feed into their policy decision making process.
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Re: proposal for creation of a 'think tank'

Postby cc » Tue May 25, 2010 10:30 pm

This idea could somehow be merged with what I proposed here a couple of days ago.

As a political party, I think our job is to bring already existing stuff to the public, and give them a chance to support it. So, instead of doing the "think tanking" ourselves, I would propose we aggregate work from existing sources and mince it down to a level normal people can understand (or at the very least, can be bothered to look at).

It would be best to do that with the help of the people who originally came up with the ideas. That's why I suggested things like guest blog posts and seminars with guest speakers, as well as introductory videos to draw in/educate the average joes.
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