First visual think-tank launched to engage those who do not participate in civic life

Written by Andrew Holt

A new and the first "visual" think-tank, CoVi (Common Vision), has been launched today, aiming to engage audiences who do not participate in traditional forms of civic life by using creative and interactive media to share ideas that transcend conventional ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’ partisan debates.

The think-tank has been founded by Caroline Macfarland, who was formerly the managing director of ResPublica, the think-tank set-up by Phillip Blond, author of Red Tory, the influential book that combined economic egalitarianism with social conservatism and contributed to David Cameron's Big Society idea.

Macfarland has been a passionate critic of partisan political debate as elitist and out-of-touch with the concerns of ordinary people.

Macfarland said: “British politics has been hijacked by a divisive, antagonistic form of debate which prioritises self-interest and pits groups in society against each other.

“CoVi will convene debates which transcend partisan divides and bring together the private, voluntary and community sectors, trade unions, faith groups, co-operatives and mutuals, and philanthropic foundations to explore and share ideas in the interests of local communities and the common good.”

Published today, CoVi’s flagship film Politics: Fit for Purpose? Fit for the Common Good? features leading commentators from all three main political parties who call for new approaches to politics in order to address the ‘crisis of trust’ in civic institutions.

The film calls for more responsive institutions at a local level, coupled with better use of new technology and social media to meet public expectations and harness civic engagement.

Maurice Glasman, the Labour Peer and architect of the ‘Blue Labour’ movement, criticised conventional left and right wing debates.

He said: “We need to move beyond left and right and towards a politics of the common good. We have a very policy-oriented, very technical, silly type of politics and people are longing for a change.”

Paddy Ashdown, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, called for greater political localism.

He said: “We are in a crisis of trust in institutions. Most of the institutions of the State are not trusted.

“We have to think of a new distribution of powers between the citizen and the State. And there is only one way we can resolve that and that is to move government closer to the people.”

Chris White, Conservative MP and proponent of the ‘social value act’, praised the work already done by charities and social enterprises in providing more responsive local approaches.

He said: “In any other walk of life people are customers, and the political revolution needs to respond to this and promote both responsible capitalism, and more responsive service delivery.

"Charities, social enterprises and the voluntary sector are already championing better and more responsive interventions in public services, and some local authorities are taking creative and innovative approaches to meeting public expectations.

"The challenge is to take these approaches and ensure that everyone can see the enormous benefits that can be achieved by doing things differently.”

The 12 politicians and commentators who call for a new approach to politics are: the Lord Paddy Ashdown, Jesse Norman MP, Lord Maurice Glasman, Chris White MP, George Freeman MP, Chi Onwurah MP, Helen Goodman MP, Zac Goldsmith MP, Ben Page (chief Eexecutive, Ipsos MORI), Faiza Khan (deputy chief executive, National Council of Youth and Voluntary Services), Geoff Mulgan (chief executive, Nesta) and Caroline Macfarland (founder and director, CoVi).

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