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Meet our new Head of Research, Ben Ryan

Meet our new Head of Research, Ben Ryan

Ben Ryan steps into his new role as Head of Research. 04/09/2018

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This September marks the beginning of my sixth year at Theos, which in some ways ought to be surprising, given that the original plan had been to stay only for a three week internship. I like to believe that the fact that I am still here is the result of finding a string of interesting projects to which I could helpfully contribute, rather than gross organizational oversight, but I choose for the sake of my own self–esteem not to find out for sure.

I am hugely excited to be taking on this new role as Head of Research. Theos is preparing to launch some fascinating new reports and publications over the coming months, including Paul Bickley’s work on resilience in the North East, Natan Mladin’s work on debt, and a project that I have been working on with Simon Perfect and Dr Kristin Aune on faith and belief, freedom of speech and religious provision in UK universities. There is also ongoing work on religion and science, on growth and social action in the Church of England, on religion in London and on Western values and identity. This is quite apart from an ambitious continuing programme of blogs, book reviews, and events.

More than the content we are producing, I am excited to be taking on this role at what feels like a crucial time for us as an organization and society more broadly. Theos is an organization that exists to stimulate and enrich debate about religion and society. Society as a whole is entering a critical moment, one in which the UK and the broader West is experiencing something of an existential crisis. Ideas which until very recently made up a common consensus and set of assumptions over our collective identity (national, ethnic, racial, political, religious and others), the trajectory of politics, the place of religion and the nature of public life seem to be breaking down.

Who we are, what we believe and where we are going are all now thoroughly contested questions. The good news is that into this newly fractured space there is an open market for new (and old, and rediscovered) ideas. We believe that within Christianity in particular there are ideas ripe for rediscovery and discussion that hold the potential to be of immense value to society, if only they could be more effectively communicated into today’s public square. Those who have something to say are going to get more opportunities to make their case in a space where past assumptions are breaking down, so long as they can do so intelligently, relevantly and persuasively.

We at Theos have plenty to say. In our eleven years we have produced more than 60 reports, nine books (eight of them written or edited by Nick Spencer), hundreds of blogs, reviews and media pieces. The objective of the research programme over the coming years is to maintain that energy while being more strategic in targeting key areas of research where we feel we can be particularly effective in shaping the debate around religion and society. In this critical moment for the UK’s intellectual public sphere we are going to be refining the issues on which we want to speak and the specific projects and ideas that will help to create a better, flourishing society in which the positive contribution of Christianity is not merely recognised, but actively encouraged. This will involve us focusing on a smaller number of research streams in greater depth.

This is a process which we’re going to be undertaking over the coming months, alongside work that is designed to increase our capacity and ability to measure how effective our projects truly are. It is going to be a very busy period and, as ever, the suggestions, comments and support from our network will be extremely welcome and helpful to us. I look forward to hopefully hearing from, and meeting, many of you in the coming months.

Ben Ryan

Ben Ryan

Ben Ryan is Home Affairs Adviser at Church of England. He was Head of Research at Theos until late 2019. He is the editor of Fortress Britain? Ethical Approaches to Immigration Policy for a Post–Brexit Britain (JKP 2018) and the author of Theos reports on chaplaincy, the EU, the Catholic charity sector, mental health and ecumenism.

Watch, listen to or read more from Ben Ryan

Posted 4 September 2018


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