Praxis builds on two insights originally put forward by Sir Douglas Hague.
Republic of the Intellect
• Sir Douglas pointed out 25 years ago (1) that Universities have been blind to one of their biggest successes. Many of their best students have moved outside the traditional intellectual hubs like Universities and Research Institutes and gone on to secure senior positions in the corporate and professional worlds.
• Any initiative seeking to engage with the top intellectual talent in today’s society, to engage with what Sir Douglas termed the ‘Republic of the Intellect’, must now reach beyond the traditional hubs to include this intellectual diaspora, wherever it resides.
• While the phenomenon has long been recognised, engaging with this Republic of the Intellect outside the traditional hubs has proved unexpectedly problematic.
• Sir Douglas saw this engagement problem rooted in the lack of permeability to knowledge flow and exchange that is evident in the boundaries separating the different sectors and activities within society. These sub-systems clearly underpin the specialisation that makes modern society so productive, but they all too often act as silos when it comes to the flow and exchange of knowledge. This lack of permeability to new knowledge frequently means they fail to incorporate the new ideas and innovations they need to avoid obsolescence.
• The challenge is to find ways of making these boundaries more permeable to knowledge, of making it easier for different parties within the Republic of the Intellect to link up with each other.
Permeability in Practice
• Praxis was set up to explore how a traditional hub like the University of Oxford might find more effective ways of linking up with members of the Republic of the Intellect working outside academia.
• It established a pilot circle of senior practitioners from within its alumni who were interested in exploring this topic. They established a rolling programme of investigations, with a focus on finding effective ways of facilitating greater permeability. The first phase was highly exploratory and involved an initial series of informal workshops and projects, overseen and often led by the practitioners themselves (the links below give examples)
• The current phase is now undertaking a better-defined portfolio of activities. These are still practitioner led but build both on other work that has been identified in Oxford and elsewhere and successful earlier Praxis initiatives, such as the Reading Weekends and Interdisciplinary Pre-Print Conference activity (the link below gives a summary)
Sample Phase I Activities:
Praxis Activities 2014
Oxford Praxis Forum focuses on 'wicked' problems
Making friendships around ideas
'Cloud Chamber' considers complex problems
Workshop looks at role of arts and humanities in executive education
GTC students learn lessons in film making
First GTC Praxis Roundtable Programme Visiting Practitioner announced
Phase II Programme
Current Praxis Portfolio
For more information about Praxis please contact:
Praxis Founding Director, Dr Marshall Young at firstname.lastname@example.org
Praxis Co-ordinator, Dorothy Cooke at email@example.com