Monday, November 22, 2010

A Unionist Think Tank?

I said last week I thought there was a reasonably active Unionist subsphere online. I also said the blogs which make up that space appear to have little overall influence on the political elite who determine policies and directions. Carrying on the theme here is a question posed by Geoff McGimpsey at Saturday's Political Innovation event:
How can greater grassroots engagement be advanced in Unionism? What is best means to set the agenda?

Open Unionism was created to be a forum to get unionists talking and to promote their ideas. But how can the blog stop being a publisher (of comment) and start to become an active player? There is a gap for unionist think tank that can agenda set via grassroots engagement. Can a blog fill that gap, and if so how?
My initial thoughts (cross-posted here):
Political think tanks *work* when their targets are narrowly specified and are capable of being achieved. There also has to be a level of commonality in the think tank which permits a concerted effort towards the setting and achievement of those goals. Do we have that level of commonality across the different strands of Unionism?

In many cases, the only common strand evident is our belief in the Union and even that is derived from differing motivations.

A think tank would, if it were to incorporate all strands of Unionism, therefore be too unwieldy and internally combative to achieve any meaningful result in my opinion.

I think in contrast Open Unionism works as an outlet for different ideas and opinions because in a blog format it does not restrict the clash of opinion which are presently all too apparent within N.Irish Unionism. Perhaps building stronger direct connections to the movers and shakers can increase its influence but if that’s at the expense of restricting the present freeflow of ideas and suggestions then I think it would be a retrograde step.
True, or am I being too pessimistic?

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