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Friday, May 19, 2017

Henry Tam & Question the Powerful

Dr. Henry Benedict Tam has written about politics and society in a wide range of publications ('HT: Bibliography'), and presented his ideas at events hosted by state and non-governmental institutions across Europe and in the US.

The Question the Powerful project disseminates ideas and findings based on the work he has carried out in a variety of educational and policy roles: Director, Forum for Youth Participation & Democracy (University of Cambridge); Head of Civil Renewal (Home Office, UK Government); Visiting Professor, Lifelong Learning (Birkbeck, University of London); Director, Community Safety & Regeneration (Government Office, East of England); Chair, Communitarian Forum (St Edmunds College, University of Cambridge).

You can catch up with his social and political reflections on the Question the Powerful blog; follow his tweets via @HenryBTam; and find out more about his main publications as set out below:

KEY PUBLICATIONS

[1] Lessons from Research
Studies on some of the key lessons to be drawn from cooperative and communitarian ideas (see ’Communitarianism & Synetopia’ for an overview):

Communitarianism: a new agenda for politics & citizenship
This standard text on progressive communitarian ideas has been praised on both sides of the Atlantic, and nominated by New York University Press for the 2000 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.
(For more information on Communitarianism and its companion volume, Progressive Politics in the Global Age, go to Info on Communitarianism)

Against Power Inequalities
A short global history on the progressive struggle against exploitation and oppression. “An intellectual tour de force” (Professor Charles Derber, US); “history retold as a panorama of struggle, hope and co-operation [by] a master storyteller” (Ed Mayo, Secretary General, Co-operatives UK).
(For more information, go to Against Power Inequalities)

Responsibility & Personal Interactions
An in-depth study on when people should be held responsible for their behaviour, with the proposed criteria tested against legal judgment in seminal cases. It provides a basis for exposing flawed attempts to deny responsibility.
(For more information on this book and its companion volume, Punishment, Excuses & Moral Development, go to Info on Responsibility)

[2] Depictions of Dystopia
The ‘Synetopia Quest’ series of dystopian novels use speculative fiction to depict disturbing social and political trends, and raise questions about the world's future (see Synetopia Quest for an overview):

Kuan’s Wonderland
An allegorical novel about the mysterious realm of Shiyan, where a young boy must uncover the truth if the world is not to succumb to irrevocable oppression. “Original and very engaging” (Fantasy Book Review); “an unmissable page-turner” (President, the Independent Publishers Guild). Recommended by the Equality Trust.
(For more information, go to Kuan’s Wonderland: a quick guide)

Whitehall through the Looking Glass
A satirical tale about how a group of powerful corporations known as the Consortium came to take over the government of Britain and America. “[A] timely reminder of the dangers of the rapidly-accelerating corporatisation of our political and economic life.” (F. O'Grady, General Secretary, TUC); “We need Tam's absurdist vision of Whitehall to help wake us all up” (S. Duffy, Director, Centre for Welfare Reform).
(For more information, go to Whitehall through the Looking Glass: a quick guide)

The Hunting of the Gods
A saga set on a much transformed Earth where immortal rulers dictate terms to subjects who are brought up to fight against their foreign enemies until a resurrected stranger reveals to them the origins of the self-proclaimed gods, and revolutions erupt against the reigning regimes. Questions are raised about the advancement of microbotic technology, self-identity in a rapidly changing world, and the distribution of resources that continuously widen the gulf between those who have a rich and prolonged life and those have nothing but insecurity.

[3] Guidance for Practice
The materials below are based on practices that have led to more effective cooperation and better community relations (see Together We Can: resources for cooperative problem-solving for an overview):

Political Literacy and Civic Thoughtfulness
A guide to the problem of political illiteracy, why it is a threat to democracy, and how it can be tackled with reference to three aspects of civic thoughtfulness, using the 'Synetopia' framework. This provides a basis for assessing the level of political aptitude and identifying key actions to be taken to attain improvements.

Together We Can: the practice of community empowerment
‘Together We Can’ was a national cross-government programme for civil renewal and community empowerment (2003-2010) – it was showcased as an exemplar at the 2008 international meeting of the Global Network of Government Innovators (USA). It supported government departments, local councils, and community organisations in developing participatory skills citizens, adopting new empowerment techniques, and ensuring more opportunities were provided for communities to understand and shape public policies. Practical ideas and policy recommendations can be found amongst the resources listed here.

Cooperative Gestalt: the practice of cooperative problem-solving
The discussions with academics and practitioners via the Forum for Youth Participation & Democracy (University of Cambridge) facilitated the codification of what works in cultivating the cooperative gestalt and promoting cooperative problem-solving, not just amongst young people, but in group contexts. The application of these findings can help any organisation interested in securing more effective collaborative working to achieve their goals. A range of articles and other materials can be found here.

Serving the Public: the practice of democratic engagement
In depth development of citizen engagement policies with local authorities at a senior level has informed the production of a series of case studies and good practice guides. The impact of these ideas has been reflected in one local authority recognised as the best in England (Braintree, 1993), another one winning the award for youth participation from the Prime Minister (St Edmundsbury, 1999), and the establishment of a network of Civic Pioneer authorities across the country. Details of the resources can be found here.

QUESTION THE POWERFUL TALKS

Henry Tam has been invited to share his ideas on politics and society at events convened by many diverse organisations such as WEA (Workers’ Educational Association); Church Action on Poverty; South Place Ethical Society; the BBC; National School of Government; Metropolitan Police Authority; Urban Forum; Civil Service College, and Community Service Volunteers.

He has also been a guest speaker at the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation (Harvard, USA); the World Forum for Democracy (the Council of Europe); the Institute of Sociology (Warsaw, Poland); the Society for Applied Philosophy; the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics; the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies (Washington, USA); the Glencree Centre for Reconciliation (Ireland); the London Business School; the Oxford Centre for Advanced Study of the Social Sciences; and other research institutions.
(For a list of the talks given, go to ‘The QTP Talks Series’)

ACADEMIC & PROFESSIONAL RECOGNITION

• Associate Fellow, the Crick Centre, University of Sheffield (2017-).
• Affiliated Lecturer, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge (2011-2015).
• Visiting Professor, School of Lifelong Learning, Birkbeck, University of London (2008-2011).
• Fellow, Globus Institute for Globalization and Sustainable Development, University of Tilburg, the Netherlands (2000-2008).
• Fellow, Chartered Institute of Marketing (1993-2011)
• Research Fellow, Centre for Citizenship Development, Anglia Polytechnic University (1992-1995).
• Diploma in Public Relations & Marketing, CAM (Communication, Advertising & Marketing) Foundation (1988).
• Ph.D in Philosophy, (Swire Scholar) the University of Hong Kong (1981-1984).
• BA/MA in Philosophy, Politics & Economics, (Neale Scholar) the Queen’s College, University of Oxford (1978-1981).