In 2014 activist and former Green MP Sue Bradford started disseminating the results of her PhD research project: A major left wing think tank in Aotearoa: an impossible dream or a call to action? After interviewing 51 academics and activists across the country her thesis had come to the clear conclusion that there was indeed a major gap and that substantial support existed for the establishment of one or more left think tanks.
Sue spoke at public meetings in Auckland, Hamilton, Hawkes Bay, Palmerston North, Whanganui, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin and in a number of academic settings. Enthusiasm continued to grow and by early 2015 a formal project group was established. A first national workshop in August 2015 agreed on a formal kaupapa, a statement of principles which underpinned the work ahead. ESRA was born.
Since then, steady work has continued on developing the structures necessary to ensure the new organisation will grow sustainably over the long-term, despite a very low resource base. So far funding for ESRA has come principally from donations and automatic payments from individual supporters. Since ESRA’s launch in September 2016 the supporters’ network had grown to over 2,000 people. While supporters are the foundation on which we depend for survival and growth, we also look to funded research projects and organisational backers that support our kaupapa.
The organisation’s work is directed by a formally established research collective. Within this collective three named positions (Research Facilitator, Editorial and Publication Facilitator, Events and Communications Facilitator) are elected on an annual basis and take responsibility for ESRAs day-to-day organisational requirements.
Other activities which we are undertaking include the organisation of conferences, workshops and public meetings; media work and public comment; the gradual extension of research areas and inquiry groups; the involvement of further research and organisational volunteers at a pace commensurate with our ability to facilitate their work; and fundraising, including seeking out opportunities for contracted research.
At this stage we have research nodes in Auckland and Wellington, and we intend to gradually become a more fully national organisation with organised nodes operating in other centres, but this will take time to develop. We are also working to develop meaningful linkages with individual left think tanks and transnational left think tank networks internationally.
We are a national left think tank in Aotearoa whose objective includes:
- Developing an intellectual armoury for the radical left, based on high quality research and the development of theory relevant to the antagonisms and contradictions of our place and time.
- Working to build a radical left hegemony in Aotearoa, based on a kaupapa of social, economic and ecological justice, honouring tino rangatiratanga and grounded in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
- Generating a body of knowledge which incorporates different traditions of thought and ecologies of knowledge, to nurture and fuel activists and academics.
- Seeding a culture of resistance, solidarity and hope, informed by and translating the issues and hopes of exploited, oppressed and marginalised people.
- Combatting the political ideologies of capitalism and colonialism.
- Deepening strategic thinking with and for people working in different tangata whenua, political, community, and workers’ organisations about how we can move in practical ways beyond capitalism and colonialism.
- Establishing spaces where we can have respectful conversations, debates and disagreements with each other from different parts of the left, and from academic and activist bases.
- Disseminating and popularising alternatives to capitalism and collective visions of a better future.