15 January, 2013

A new Reform Institute

Every dynamic society needs arenas where new solutions can be planted and grown, where debate perspectives are broadened, and traditional limits extended. In this spirit, the Reform Institute in Stockholm shall identify and publicise innovative solutions to the challenges Sweden faces. Potential reform proposals can therefore be hammered out so they help drive Sweden forward in our times of swift technical development and globalisation. Our reform proposals shall also be evidence based and firmly founded in scientific understanding.

Effective, inclusive social institutions that promote innovation are vital to developing any nation. The contrast between Greece and Switzerland, as an example, illustrate this significance well. Recent research also shows that these institutions need to continually improve in order to keep producing positive results.

In many respects, Sweden has better functioning institutions than many other countries. Even so, plenty more challenges remain to overcome. Unemployment among youth and new arrivals, the slippery slope that the educational sector is currently finds itself on, and the shortcomings we see in the welfare system are some important examples.

Staying on the leading edge with additional reforms has a further purpose. The world also faces continued and even more rapid changes in technological developments and globalisation than we have seen so far – driverless autos, distance medical care, and even new climate technologies to name just a few. But these changes will require legislative, regulatory, and organisational reform. And what’s more, forward-looking reforms can themselves stimulate faster, and better, improvements of this kind.

The new Reform Institute in Stockholm will not simply churn out ideas. We understand that reforms must be evidence-based. The Institute will therefore also act as a knowledge base for the scientific understanding that substantiates the success of many reforms.

Therefore, the Reform Institute of Stockholm will remain independent. We are currently financed by grants from the Stiftelsen Fritt Näringsliv (the Swedish Free Enterprise Foundation), but we expect to broaden our funding base.

There are many models in other countries for the Reform Institute in Stockholm. London has the highest number of policy-oriented think tanks. The politic parties from both sides often use proposals and analyses originating from these organisations. A good example is the Policy Exchange in London, which is financed by contributions from businesses, but has a reputation of being independent. Their focus lies in analysing and preparing proposals primarily concerned with the labour market and forms of social insurance.

A second example is an institute that simply calls itself Reform, but which concentrates on public sector reform proposals. The oldest market-oriented think tank in London, though, is the Institute for Economic Affairs.

As well, Germany has several large policy-oriented think tanks that retain a measure of independence even as they are historically close to the various political parties in the country. These were founded shortly after the Second World War, partly with governmental support, in order to promote democratic processes. Now however, they currently have significant influence in developing national reforms. One example is the Hans Boeckler Foundation, which works closely with the Social Democratic Party. The Liberales Institut is part of the liberal foundation ‘Friedrich Nauman Stiftung’. Their webpage provides a good idea of their activities.

Germany also has several large organisations that call themselves think tanks, but which are actually more similar to research institutions. Among these there is Bertelsman and the Kieler Weltwirtschaftsinstitut. There are also many regional think tanks, including the Stiftung-NV i Nord-Rhein Westfalen, a policy oriented and successful, rather mainstream, organisation that has a certain emphasis on entrepreneurial issues. Another such example is the Berlin-Manhattan Institut für Unternehmerische Freiheit, though this is still rather small and vague in regard to details in their reform proposals. The Economic Forum Deutschland sees itself more as a platform for various entrepreneurial sector think tanks, arranging conferences and seminars where these can meet with businesses and politicians.

In Austria and Switzerland, party allied think tanks have a lesser roll, but otherwise these countries have a similar constellation of reform-oriented institutions as in Germany. An interesting example that should be noted, though, is the Avenir Suisse, policy institution in Switzerland that has a high future-oriented profile.

The USA, of course, has a wealth of policy-focused think tanks, where two of the largest are the American Enterprise Institute and the Peterson Institute for International Economics.