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Why the Bevan Foundation is special

August 3rd 2018

In the second of a series on our strategy for the next three years, Victoria Winckler outlines what sets the Bevan Foundation apart from Wales’ other think tanks.

Wales has a growing number of think tanks but while they might all have the same label, they’re not all the same inside the tin.  We think that the Bevan Foundation stands out from the crowd for several reasons.

We’re independent

First of all, we’re independent.  Our Trustees, and our Trustees alone, are responsible for deciding what we do and how we do it. We are not accountable to government, any party or a single funder for our strategy or our outputs.  Our independence means:

  • We can speak out

    We can challenge government or any other powers-that-be or vested interests in a way that organisations dependent on their funding can’t.  We do this when the time or the issue is right, not just because the media want an easy quote.

  • We can work on new issues

    We’re free to work on issues that are off the public agenda. Recent examples include looking at the potential for devolving social security, the scope for new devolved taxes and our current work on devolving migration policy. What this work does is genuinely agenda-setting – people now talk about issues we’ve worked on that they didn’t a few years ago.

  • We can innovate

    Being independent means we can also generate innovative solutions. We’re not tied to retaining the status quo, whether of organisations or policies, so when necessary we can think outside the box. Free public transport and more rather than fewer local authorities are examples of our ideas that go against the grain.

  • We’re not the only independent think tank of course – check out the Institute of Welsh Affairs and Gorwel for a start – but it really matters to us.

    Our mission

    Most think tanks have some sort of purpose or mission. What’s distinctive about the Bevan Foundation is its mission to achieve equality, prosperity and justice in Wales.

    And while most think tanks feature ‘improvement’ somewhere in their aims (otherwise why would they exist!) we’re clear about what sort of improvements we want to help achieve and, crucially, who they’re for.

    So, our strategic plan for the next three years is organised around our three goals. There’s a strand of work on different aspects of equality, there’s a strand on prosperity, and there’s a strand on justice, each with a page on this website with more information.

    Our ways of working

    There as many different ways of ‘think-tanking’ as there are think tanks.  University-based think-tanks, such as the Morgan Academy and Wales Centre for Public Policy, emphasise the importance of research and evidence and academic experts. Other think tanks operate by providing a platform for debate and / or working with experts and practitioners.

    The Bevan Foundation’s way of working is different. We aim to listen to ordinary people, as well as crunching stats, reviewing evidence and working with experts.  We’ve found over the years that the greatest insights come from those who live with an issue, whether it is not having five good GCSEs or having a low income. Unfortunately we often struggle to do this as much as we’d like because it takes a lot of time and money, but the ambition is there.

    Our impact

    Like other think tanks, our focus is changing public policy and practice. Any think tank has a real challenge proving they’ve made a difference, not least because it’s a rare Minister (in Wales or elsewhere) who adopts a proposal wholesale still less acknowledges where it came from.

    But because the Bevan Foundation is clear about what it wants to achieve, we can also identify who needs to change what. And we can begin to track the shifting grounds of government policy. So from our work on devolved taxes, for example, we saw debate in the Assembly move from questions about whether they even had the power to introduce them to discussion about three of our proposals in the Welsh Government’s last budget. Similarly, our proposals for three ‘growth hubs’ in the south wales valleys emerged as rather more ‘strategic hubs’ in the Valleys Task Force plan.

    We do all this with just 3.5 staff and an income of less than £200,000 a year. On top of that, we’re running a deficit this year. So if you like what makes us different, then we’d welcome your support.  And as I’ve  set out in this and other articles – other think tanks are of course available!

    Victoria Winckler is Director of the Bevan Foundation





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