THE BLOG
20/02/2012 08:23 GMT | Updated 20/04/2012 06:12 BST

The New Open Networks for Policy Debate

We face a set of extremely serious challenges in society - on welfare, the economy, our international standing - and a handful of organisations are busy creating a quiet revolution by bringing together a group of fresh faces to forge new relationships and come up with new solutions.

We face a set of extremely serious challenges in society - on welfare, the economy, our international standing - and a handful of organisations are busy creating a quiet revolution by bringing together a group of fresh faces to forge new relationships and come up with new solutions.

A big problem with the current way of doing policy is that it can be too narrowly drawn. The same old people come together and, because they rely the same assumptions, they come to the same old conclusions. We know the failures this approach can bring, from same old stasis through to fundamentally wrong policies.

It's that old saying about the definition of madness - doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.

This is why organisations such as the Royal Commonwealth Society, Counterpoint, and Editorial Intelligence are a blast of fresh air; they bring together different faces and have conversations in different ways. Counterpoint shines a searchlight on the cultural underpinnings of political and economic dynamics; while EI and the RCS curate wide-ranging discussions with people from different sections of society. To declare an interest - I am an associate to the RCS and Counterpoint. There are other notable groups, such as the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, forming this wave of change.

While some of these organisations are young and new and others are august bodies with a long heritage, what they share is a pluralistic, inclusive approach to debate and network building. For example the RCS will soon be hosting an event with Leaders' Quest, on the thorny issue of employability. The lunch connects international expertise on what works in the form of Andrew Forrest, who brought together nearly 300 companies in Australia to create 50,000 jobs and training opportunities, with a wide range of community leaders, civic representatives, and business figures. It is a recognition that creating jobs in this country is an issue for us all, not just a few civil servants and contractors.

Open discussions with diverse groups can pose a challenge to those more used to tight agendas with a small group of experts. But we might ask where that thinking has got us? Decisions taken by groups of like-minded people can lead to regulatory and policy failure, while narrow agendas allow for focused decisions but work against the innovative thinking we need right now.

It is places such as the RCS, forging new relationships between different sections of society and providing a space for open dialogue, that are providing the grounding for a fresh contribution to policy making.