IPPR, the Cabinet Office and me (not). Or why I’ll be more careful about collaborating with think tanks in the future.

When the Cabinet Office advertised their “outsourced” project to get advice about how some other countries manage the relationship between Ministers and Mandarins they made it clear they wanted a think-tank or University to bid for it. This is the (brief) version of how I was part, and then not part, of the winning bid.

I was approached by IPPR to work with them on a bid, and at the same time KPMG also approached me offering some “pro-bono” support if I wanted to put a bid in.

As I’d just spent a month in Australia – one of the countries the were interested in – and done work on or in most of the others that were mentioned, I guess I was an obvious possibility.

After a some discussions we decided to put in a bid from IPPR and myself, with KPMG offering support.

I participated substantially in drawing up the bid – I’d guess at least a third of the major points in the substance of the bid were contributed by me. IPPR were saying they wanted me, and possibly some researchers at Manchester, to take on a substantial part of the work. I, and to some extent IPPR, weren’t entirely certain about bidding, and several other groups decided not to. But in the end the bid went in with, as I’ve said, a a substantial input from me. We got short listed.

I wasn’t able to make it to the “pitch” at the Cabinet Office, which was clearly a mistake. When we got the contract it was publicised by both the Cabinet Office and IPPR as “IPPR had win the contract”, with no mention of me (or KPMG). Only after I insisted did IPPR put a mention on their website that I was “supporting” the work.

My second mistake was I hadn’t pinned IPPR down in advance on the exact basis on which I was involved. To cut a long story short, after numerous efforts to get a clear agreement out of IPPR about my role, and with my role being steadily cut down, they simply stopped communicating with me. I’m assuming therefore I’m no longer part of the project. To be honest, by then I’d lost interest in trying to collaborate with them as it was proving more trouble than it was worth.

So, for the sake of clarity – I am not any longer any part of the IPPR work on this Cabinet Office project, and bear no responsibility for its results or conclusions.

The upside is I’m now rather more free to say what I like about Mr Maude’s reform plans, so watch this space. And I’ll be rather more careful, and less trusting, about working with think-tanks in the future. To be honest, I have found working with the big consultancies easier, even tho I have less in common with them than a centre-left (?) think tank like IPPR. At least you know where they are coming from and you can make agreements they stick to.

3 thoughts on “IPPR, the Cabinet Office and me (not). Or why I’ll be more careful about collaborating with think tanks in the future.

  1. Hi Colin,

    Was this IPPR or IPPR North?

    I know Ed Cox from the latter and have always found him to be reliable and honourable. What a shocking tale!

    Oh and happy hew year !


  2. I am ashamed to say that on reading this post I laughed out loud. Distinguished professor, accustomed to giving out advice, taken for a sucker by a nice cuddly think tank. Did you not wonder whether some people in think tanks might not be as ruthless as academics in fighting their corner? Sadly, if you sup with the devil at the meal table of government contracts you need to beware. The old (and sometimes tedious) civil service insistence on “getting things in writing” has its benefits as you now seem to be finding. Did your name appear in any of the bid documents – in drafts or in whatever was eventually sent to the Cabinet Office? What – if any – reaction has there been from IPPR or KPMG to your post or any other contact you have had with them? Did you have a good reason to duck out of the pitch itself? I have a few other questions and thoughts but these are best put to you face to face. So when you are planning to come to London please let me know and we can compare notes. In spite of my initial reaction I have considerable sympathy for you.

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