This week we talk to Marc Stears, the inaugural Director of UCL’s new Policy Lab, about the aims for the Lab, an inspiring moment from his previous job, and an interesting role-play experience.
What is your role and what does it involve?
I am the inaugural Director of the UCL Policy Lab, connecting researchers in economics and political science to all kinds of people outside academia so that our work can help change the world.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I have been at UCL for a couple of months now. I have had a range of weird and wonderful positions, including chief speechwriter to the UK Labour Party, under Ed Miliband. Immediately before UCL, though, I was running the Sydney Policy Lab in Australia.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
In Sydney, my colleagues and I brought social change leaders from all over the world - Hong Kong, South Africa, Spain, the UK, the US - to Australia for 10 days of debate and discussion. It ended with 400 people spontaneously singing anti-apartheid songs in the university theatre together - pretty inspiring!
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?
We are trying to build a really exciting, diverse and powerful community around the Policy Lab, from charities and community groups to politicians and civil servants.
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
Album: Bob Dylan, New Morning.
Film: I love movies, but if there was only one in the world, it would have to be Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush.
Book: Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, a truly life-changing book.
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?
My 7-year old’s favourite is:
- Who’s There?
- Twitter Who?
I didn’t know you were an owl!
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
The poet, Dylan Thomas; politician, Franklin Roosevelt; philosopher, Danielle Allen. And my mum and dad.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t worry so much.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
I briefly got to play Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood, in Ed Miliband’s general election debate rehearsals.
What is your favourite place?
Hackney on a sunny Sunday.
Launching on 30 May, the new UCL Policy Lab aims to transform thinking by creating a space for collaboration and innovation. Register to attend.
- University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT (0) 20 7679 2000