New ‘think tank’ aims to set Agenda

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A new NOK 12 million social democratic “think tank” called Agenda will challenge and broaden public debate, according to one of its billionaire backers. Bergen-based offshore industry magnate and philanthropist Trond Mohn thinks Norway needs such an organization to help set the agenda and stir the public’s interest in political issues.

Bergen industrialist and philanthropist Trond Moe is opening up his wallet again, this time to help fund a social democratic "think tank" on the left side of Norwegian politics. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons/Flickr

Bergen industrialist and philanthropist Trond Mohn is opening up his wallet again, this time to help fund a social democratic “think tank” on the left side of Norwegian politics. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons/Flickr

A think tank is an organization usually based around a particular set of values. Such groups aim to generate new ideas, analysis and political debate through research, publications, conferences and general information.

“I am a reflective and thoughtful man, and of course see the importance of a social democratic think tank that is broader in scope than the other think tanks we have on the left side today,” Mohn told newspaper Dagsavisen.

Mohn joined the Agenda project after he was approached earlier this year by Raymond Johansen, secretary of Norway’s Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet, AP). Dagsavisen, which itself has had long ties to Labour, reported, though, that the new social democratic group must not be seen as a “Labour think tank.” Instead, it will also encompass both socialist left and environmental ideologies.

The new organization aims to challenge the dominance of Civita, a well-established and influential liberal think tank chaired by former Conservative (Høyre) minister Kristin Clemet. On its website, Civita says its main goal is to increase “the core values of a free economy, civil society and strengthened personal responsibility.” Mohn, one of Norway’s wealthiest men, also bought shares in Civita when it was established.

Mohn says Agenda is due to launch as soon as the final formalities are in place. A number of large corporate donors have been secured, giving the think tank a NOK 12 million budget in its first year.

It may also provide an outlet and jobs for some top Labour Party politicians who lost their posts when Labour lost government power in the recent parliamentary election. Clemet has been widely credited with fueling the success of Civita, and Dagsavisen reported that Agenda will be looking for “capable and charismatic people” that others will want to mingle with. Former Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, former Justice Minister Grete Faremo and former Chief of Staff Karl Eirik Schjøtt-Pedersen in the prime minister’s office are among Labour Party politicians who applied for three months worth of severance pay from the state while they look for new work.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate