Among the most successful and popular of the ASI’s events is the series which caters for young people.
The Next Generation
The Next Generation, TNG for short, began in 1990, and brings together people from 18-30, usually on the first Tuesday of the month. It was named after the sci-fi TV series, “Star Trek – the Next Generation,” which had recently started. The aim was to bring together young people from five groups: those in fulltime education, those staring out in City jobs, young professionals in fields such as law and medicine, young people working in the media, and those involved in public policy, including research staff for MPs and people in think tanks.
The format is that of a wine reception starting at 6.00 pm. At each meeting there is a speaker of public prominence for 10 minutes in the middle (timed with an alarm clock!) The young guests enjoy each other’s company as the invited speaker circulates among them answering their questions. Some of those who originally attended as guests are now themselves MPs and media personalities.
The highlight of the TNG year is the annual Boat Trip, when 240 of them sail up and down the Thames on a champagne cruise on a summer evening. It is always heavily over-subscribed.
The Independent Seminar on the Open Society is aimed at school sixth formers. The London one, held in Westminster, attracts about 150 students, many of them sent by their teachers, with some teachers even accompanying them. The format is of a one-day conference with a series of speakers on topics relevant to the work and outlook of the ASI. Each speaker has a half-hour slot to cover their speech and questions, so many can be fitted in. There is usually a debate on some topical or contentious issue.
The ASI has recently extended the programme to include ISOS conferences in Manchester, Birmingham and Sheffield, attracting about 120 students to each, and is looking to include other towns in the future.
The ASI’s Forum, held on a Saturday in early December, is a one-day successor to the Liberty League Freedom Forum conferences, and like them, attracts over 300 guests, mostly students or people in their early 20s. It is very high powered, covering both esoteric and specialist topics as well, with speaks who are prominent, knowledgeable, and highly entertaining. It gives students a chance to network with each other and with the speakers.
Freedom Week is held in a Cambridge college in early July. It is a Monday to Saturday conference jointly organized and funded by the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute for Economic Affairs. It selects 36 top quality students from about 250 applicants, and provides them with accommodation and meals during a week of intensive lectures in aspects of political economy and neoliberal ideas.
Social events make it even more attractive, and include an outdoor cava reception, a barbecue and a session of punting on the river Cam. By the end of the week the students have formed a close-knit and effective group.
ASI President, Dr Madsen Pirie, speaks to about one school each month, going to the school to address their sixth formers on topics of economic and public policy that might not feature prominently in the school syllabus. The schools often invite nearby schools to participate, giving an even larger audience. These visits often spur the students into attending other ASI functions and becoming part of its network.
Each year the ASI employs two gap year people as paid full time employees. Often it is a boy and a girl taking a year out after school. They participate in the full work of the ASI, writing for the blog, organizing meetings and school trips, helping to plan lectures and events and editing and proofing our papers. It is very much a learning experience that makes it easier for them to handle the demands they will encounter first at university, then in employment.
The ASI accepts a few interns each year for short periods of work experience, usually a week or two. They play a full part in the ASI’s work, and are usually assigned a special project to complete during their stay.
The ASI expends much time and many resources on its youth outreach programme, fully aware of the importance of the next generation of leaders in academe, public policy, the media and business. This attention has paid off handsomely in the past, does so today, and will do even more so in the future.