Stiftung Mercator launches new digital policy think tank “Agora Digitale Transformation”

It’s time to pull back the curtain on a project I’m extremely happy I’ve had the opportunity to work on for the last year or so: A new think tank launched by my client Stiftung Mercator, the Agora Digitale Transformation. In my role as special advisor to the foundation, I got to be part of the team that did the research and put together the concept for this initiative.

We’ve done, among many other things, over 100 interviews with policy makers and other experts and learned a lot. If you unterstand German, the head of Mercator’s Digital Society program Carla Hustedt wrote up some of that context and background for the launch of the new organization.

I’d like to offer some quick notes in English, because there is so far no English announcement that I’m aware of. More background in English soon!

So, where were we?

Stiftung Mercator has launched a new digital policy think tank, Agora Digitale Transformation (ADT).

The goal of ADT is to shape digital transformation and policy guided by public benefit and democratic rights. Think (in my own words): How to shape digital transformation so that it strengthens a healthy democracy .

It’s a fully politically independent organization, funded by Mercator for (initially) 5 years with about €8.6m, headed by Stefan Heumann, who has extensive political experience in Germany and Europe.

One is that digital policy still is silo’d too often, and rarely top priority, even though as a horizontal field its implications and the leverage it offers are huge.

Another is that the knowledge how to do things better exists – sometimes internationally, sometimes in civil society, sometimes in academia, sometimes in the private sector. HOWEVER, the knowledge transfer from anywhere but private sector is far from sufficient.

This offers a clear vector for contributions: By synthesizing, translating, contextualizing and adapting knowledge from civil society and academia so that it becomes actionable for policy makers, there’s much to be gained.

We also learned that all too often, digital policy experts agree across party lines but don’t get the internal backing inside their parties to work effectively. There’s lots of expertise there that simply doesn’t get heard! By gathering top policy makers and experts in a setting that allows for open, trusted exchange and mutual learning (which doesn’t need consensus!), that expertise can be unlocked and amplified in ways that should, hopefully, give digital policy experts more leverage internally.

There are other insights, approaches, etc., but for now, for the sake of brevity, I’ll end the thread: There’s lots more to come. Today, we’ll just enjoy the fact that this new organization is becoming a reality.

Onwards and upwards!

Note: I should add that this is my personal summary, based on my work on the project, not the official announcement. If details here are wrong, then I was the one who got them wrong.

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