David Walker, chair of the panel of judges for this year's Think Tank of the Year awards, on the state of British think tanksby David Walker / October 27, 2007 / Leave a comment
Published in October 2007 issue of Prospect Magazine
This is an edited extract from David Walker’s speech at the Prospect Think Tank of the Year award ceremony, held on Wednesday 10th October in the Great Hall of King’s College, London
You’ve all been busy. We don’t keep a tally of publications or events, but the past year has seen what feels like increasing volumes of pamphlets, seminars, statements.
And the menagerie of thinkers-cum-doers-cum-campaigners that nestles under the think tank label has got bigger and more diverse. This year we noted a number of new creations (in Edinburgh), spin-offs (in Newcastle-upon-Tyne) and geographical spread. UK tanks are active in Brussels and Beijing; Demos in Wellington and Melbourne and now Paris; the Stockholm Network reaches across old and new Europe; and the influence of the likes of the International Institute for Strategic Studies spreads far across the Atlantic.
We note, too, revivals—under Matthew Taylor the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts may well take a place among leading tanks.
Exercises like this may miss the willing workhorses of the think tank world, organisations that maintain a consistently high level of output without being flashy—the Work Foundation, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Social Market Foundation.
We—I chaired a panel of judges consisting of David Goodhart, Lawrence Freedman, David Halpern, David Willetts and Kishwer Falkner—thought energy levels were higher on the right of the political spectrum. Policy Exchange, last year’s winners, had another strong year, growing in size and notching up an impressive strike rate, expanding its interest to health and security; judges were impressed by the pamphlet “Living Apart Together.” Reform coined the “IPOD” generation—young people who are “insecure, pressured, overtaxed and debt-ridden.” Other right-of-centre tanks have been active—Politeia, Civitas, the Centre for Po…