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Wonk for Sale : This feature is in danger of becoming almost exclusively about Demos, but they really are the rent-a-wonks of the think-tank world. Their new seminar report “Mobilising Public Services” is about the brave new Blairite world of public services. From it Guido learns that the “mobile phone is the ultimate personal device“. Gems of insight like this must be worth the money mobile phone company 02 paid. Well that and recommending that local government uses text messages to communicate with citizens. 02 makes millions from text messaging…

Backbencher Backs Down

Guido’s new think-tank feature Wonk for Sale (October 21) mentioned Demos and its IKEA furniture linked to a published policy paper. As so often happens with this blog, the Guardian’s Backbencher picked up on it on October 26.
“Would you like a think-tank to write about your product? Hey, would you like a think-tank to endorse your product in exchange for a fee? If so, have you thought about approaching Demos? “How can values-based products make the transition from the niche to mass market?” asks the latest Demos newsletter. “Why does increasing awareness rarely lead to changes in our consumption patterns?” Why indeed? If only our great thinkers had tackled that paradox. “This project will explore how Collaborative Brands can help values-based products make the transition, by connecting large numbers of individuals through a brand…”

Next week, unlike Guido, the Backbencher (November 2) backed down;
“With reference to the item about Demos in last week’s edition, the think-tank has asked the Backbencher to make it clear that it is “plain wrong” to imply that it offers product endorsement in return for payment.”

Oh yeah? Look at this selection of sponsors logos taken from their website,:-
As wonk-whores go, Demos flaunt it, one outrageous example: The Politics of Bandwidth: Network innovation and regulation in broadband Britain published by Demos, funded by Cable & Wireless. It recommended the break up of bitter rival BT and that the BT local loop be run not-for-profit. If you can’t beat em in the market-place, get a government friendly think-tank to recommend destroying ’em.

Demos has a reputation for policy prostitution, so why did Backbencher back down? Guido reckons Demos have got away with writing sponsor-friendly press releases for too long. Think-tanks need to distance themselves from donors to have any credibility, otherwise they are just PR houses writing press releases.

Send writs and more blatant examples of wonk-whoring here.

NEW FEATURE : Wonks for Sale

Guido’s think – tank feature Propeller-Head Wonk Watch is one of the most popular services of this blog, it gets more attention in wonk-land than anything else. So today Guido is excited to announce a new and hopefully no less interesting occasional feature: Wonk for Sale. Guido hopes to highlight research and policy proposals which coincidentally reflect the interests of donors. Out in wonk-land an increasing number of think-tanks actually seem to act merely as PR operations rather than intellectual and high minded policy advocates.

This story was told to me by a former Demos intern. Asked at his interview what do you think about Demos? “I think you are very modern, because you have a lot of Ikea furniture.” “Ahh” replied the interviewer, “we wrote a pro-Ikea report and they paid us in furniture.” Guido wonders what report they could mean, surely not this by Charles Leadbeater?

Any more gossip about wonk-sluts? Send to the usual place Guido.

Propeller Head Wonk Watch

Ross Clark in The Times draws our attention to a new pamphlet from Demos about some imagined Pro-Am Revolution. Haven’t you noticed it? No me neither. But apparently all the enthusiasts in the community tidying up their village greens and organising Jam pots for the WI need a New Deal for Communities. Uh, oh. “Government should … invest … community … professional … infrastructure … responsibility … policy intervention … Lead users should play a larger role in foresight exercises to chart the future course of innovation … Pro-Am communities are the new R & D labs of the digital economy”. Recess Monkey calls such buzzword bollocks Bullshit Bingomanagement consultant speak applied to political policy making. (New Labour junior ministers drone it out all the time.)

Demos’ wonks conclude with this utter drivel “the new driving force, creating new streams of knowledge, new kinds of organisations, new sources of authority, will be the Pro-Ams.”



What it will really mean is taxpayers funding more Grauniad adverts for Pro-Am Initiative Co-ordinators, Pro-Am Benchmarking Analysts etc. In the real world most people dread the phrase “We’re from the government, we’re here to help”. When will the wonks understand – LEAVE PEOPLE ALONE!



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