REA/APPRRE Senior Think Tank Task Force

This is a new task force that will have its initial meeting in 2013 at the Boston gathering, Saturday morning 7:45-8:45 am. If you are already occupied at that time and/or not in attendance at our Boston meeting contact Bob O’Gorman rogorma@luc.edu before or after Boston with your desire to participate.

Proposal:  REA/APRRE Senior Think Tank composed of senior and retired members

Bob O’Gorman, convener
Senior members devoted to research and advocacy on the state and future of religious education. This first gathering will discuss focus, scope and procedures. Open to any and all members who self describe as “Seniors in the Field.”

A common understanding of “think tank” is an organization that performs research and advocacy to express various issue and policy agendas. Most are non-profit organizations where funding sources and the intended consumers often define the workings of think tanks.

This task force will attempt to establish a Think Tank that gathers REA/APPRE’s retired and senior members into an ongoing organization to attend to meta-issues related internally to REA and externally to the field. At our brief (one hour) session in Boston I would like to initiate two tasks/assignments to work on during the year before our next gathering: 1) a list of meta-issues; 2) protocol for the think tank. I will be happy to serve as the cyber moderator of the work during the year.

Some characteristics of the work of the Think Tank:
1. Monitor and comment on cultural trends and keep focus on the larger issues and attempt to sort out the implications from a religious education perspective.
2. The Think Tank’s associates are continually nourished, informed and energized through their personal participation in the work of the think tank.
3. The Think Tank’s work could revolve around
a. a series of team-based projects: a single topic might be selected, and all of the think tank’s associates would reflect on the topic and write an article about some aspect of it, drawing from his or her area of expertise;
b. or, independent research that allows the researchers the liberty to choose their research questions and method.

In either case research may be long term and could emphasize ‘big ideas’ without direct policy relevance or it could emphasize a major policy problem that requires action investment. Resulting essays would be compiled and released through a Think Tank Report.

Here is a frame for the protocol of the think tank we might develop during the intervening year.
• Mission Statement
• The Think Tank’s Methodology
• Membership/Organization
• Means of Dissemination
• Structure/Budget

Proposed assignments:
1. Due back to the coordinator January 15, 2014 – a list of meta-issues related internally to REA and externally to the field
2. Due back to the coordinator June 15, 2014 – development of the structures of protocol

For some of these items I have drawn illustrative examples from the Jesuit Woodstock Theological Center:

The Woodstock Theological Center is an independent, Jesuit-sponsored, nonprofit institute located at Georgetown University that engages in theological and ethical reflection on topics of social, economic, business, scientific, cultural, religious, and political importance.
The Center’s purpose is to provide a method of inter-disciplinary reasoning and reflecting on human problems from a Roman Catholic Faith perspective, so that public policy makers, the business community, religious groups, educational institutions, other research centers, and the media may better contribute to a greater understanding of the global common good and deeper solidarity with those in need.
It distributes the products of its work through publishing books and articles, conducting conferences and seminars, and using other channels of communication designed to appeal to persons of all ages, including the young.
Its work is inter-religiously and ecumenically open and promotes the contemporary mission of the Society of Jesus: the service of faith through the promotion of justice in a pluralistic and globalized world.
Through its array of programs and projects, the [Woodstock] Think Tank works to advance four strategic goals: Seeking the Global Good in Different Cultures;Practicing Authentic Personal Values in Public Life; Passing the Catholic and Jesuit Intellectual Tradition to a New Generation; and Educating the Public to Reflect Theologically and Ethically.
Associates are selected on the basis of their expertise, their commitment to researching issues of interest to the [Woodstock] Think Tank, their willingness to work collegially in an interdisciplinary team, and their belief in the mission of the Think Tank.
The Think Tank’s Report is the Think Tank’s primary means of keeping the public engaged with the work of our Programs and Research Fellows. It includes stories about recent Woodstock Forums and other events, reflections by the Research Fellows and guest contributors on topics of current interest, and a letter from the Think Tank’s Director. The Woodstock Report (ISSN 1089-2079) is published several times each year, and has a circulation of around 10,000 subscribers. It is available in both printed and downloadable PDF format.