The Bridges Project

Bringing top researchers and public intellectuals into a dialogue with high-level policy-makers and politicians to work through some of the most complex policy dilemmas facing open societies in Europe.

The Bridges Project: New policy in an age of uncertainty

European policy-makers are dealing with increasing pressures to manage sensitive policy issues, consider rapidly changing opinions, and re-connect with seemingly unpredictable publics.

Security concerns, the limits and meaning of citizenship and citizenship law, the crises that unfold daily on the borders of Europe, and a challenging economic climate have conspired to create a particularly complex political moment for European nations and their allies. Yet at a time when policy-makers and politicians need to be able to plan long-term and creatively, and respond to citizens’ growing concerns, low levels of trust (on both sides) hinder their progress and undermine their capacity to deal with crises and their capacity to promote open societies in Europe.

Decision-makers shy away from certain progressive policy options for fear of falling foul of a public that can appear to be unpredictable, contradictory or ‘unpleasable’.  Citizens pull away from politicians and policy-makers as the latter appear to be increasingly ineffective and disconnected from peoples’ preferences and attitudes. Our diagnosis is that the challenges we face today (from security concerns to the migration crisis) were manifest long before the crisis in Europe, and that their causes run deeper.  Our research suggests that policies fail, or are not undertaken, because of this deeply harmful vicious circle:  a lack of sound knowledge about how people think, come to hold opinions and make choices on the one hand, and a perception of inefficiency on the other.

The Bridges Project, in partnership with the Open Society European Policy Institute, explores the dynamics of human choice, collective thinking and sentiment, and political behaviour by bringing together ground-breaking researchers and intellectuals into a dialogue with high-level policy-makers and politicians. Read about this dialogue in our Bridges Project publication

The Bridges Project 2015/2016: Focus on migration, integration, diversity

1123887501 The debate on migration is dominated by alarmist polls and headlines: public opinion is perceived as hostile and resistant to the very idea of migration and integration. As a result, policy makers tend to be paralysed, fearful of the public’s reactions to any new initiative in this field. But public opinion is neither uniform nor static—nor are its dynamics well-understood. This year the Bridges Project focuses on migration, integration and diversity and explores how policy-making can respond more effectively to the challenges European democracies are confronted with.

May 2016: Our Bridges Workshop on Re-framing the Swedish migration debate

IMG_0600In late May, we hosted a workshop with the Swedish Ministry of Justice that helped Swedish policy-makers frame the migration debate differently. Our workshop was designed so as to guide participants from a deeper understanding of the link between language and thought to practical applications of the framing technique.

Read our Case Study – Reframing the Swedish Migration Debate

Read a Q and A with the Bridges team at this workshop here

March 2016: Our Bridges Project Retreat: New interpretations of the Collective

Retreat 2016The migration crisis, the vote for Brexit, and illiberal reforms in Central and Eastern European countries are forcing us to ask what the limits of the European Union are. Difficult questions such as “Who belongs? Who is ‘one of us’? And who is this ‘us’?” cannot go unanswered because they underpin our capacity to design European policy. In light of this, we decided to focus our Bridges Retreat 2016 on the theme of The Collective.

Bringing together some of the world’s top policy-makers and politicians with cutting edge researchers and public intellectuals, our retreat took place in Florence – a symbol of the civic imagination – for two days of transformational conversations and debates, to explore a theme that underpins every aspect of decision-making across the globe.

Our speakers included: Susanna Abse, one of the UK’s leading couple and family therapists; Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow; Leading theoretical physicist Jean-Philippe Bouchaud; the Italian Undersecretary for Europe, Sandro Gozi; Co-founder of Wikihouse, Alastair Parvin; the European intellectual Jacqueline Rose; Sweden’s renowned journalist and essayist Göran Rosenberg and one of Germany’s best known sociologists, Harald Welzer.

Read our summary here

Read Policy Bites from the retreat here

December 2015: Bridges Workshop on “How to talk about migration in Europe”

How to talk about migration in Europe? In early December, we hosted a workshop on framing the migration discourse and changing public attitudes.

 Read our case study on how to re-frame the migration debate here:  Case Study Re-framing the Migration Debate

Earlier Bridges Project Events and Publications

Watch the Bridges Project in action at Schloss Elmau here

The Bridges project has addressed policy issues related to transparency and accountability, xenophobia, extremism, climate change, lessons from the euro crisis, and long-term issues related to inequalities. See a number of insights from our retreat 2015 here:

Psychoanalyst David Tuckett on Decision-Making in Uncertainty

The Director of British Future Sunder Katwala on Migration

Former Commissioner Connie Hedegaard on Climate Change

Psychoanalyst David Bell on Migration and Fear

Psychoanalyst Paul Hoggett on Climate Change and Denial

Policy Advisor Tom Burke on Climate Change




Project news


Reframing the Issue of Migration in Sweden: A Bridges Project Workshop

The most recent Bridges Project event was a workshop held for the Swedish Ministry of Justice.  The workshop focussed on understanding public attitudes toward...


Re-thinking the European “we”: The Bridges Retreat 2016

Counterpoint uses different formats to bring insights on social and cultural dynamics to the attention of decision-makers. One of them is the Bridges Project....


Models of the mind and de-radicalisation

Our understanding of how ‘radicalisation’ works – or indeed what it is, how it affects individuals and group is rooted in a number of...


Strategic advice to manage new forms of cultural and social risks

Decoding cultures and making sense of context

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Interpreting public behaviour and emotions

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Crafting the right conversations

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News & events


Compassionate Consumption: How Veganism is taking over Western Europe

As diverse as it is interconnected, Europe is taking on plant-based eating with a cross-continental wave of enthusiasm as the movement rebrands itself as...


A very British response to a European crisis

In a new regular column for Chatham House’s magazine The World Today, Catherine Fieschi looks at how national characteristics are reflected in the way...

fractured europe 2

A new dawn Brexits? our take on the EU referendum result

In light of yesterday’s EU referendum results and Britain’s historic vote to leave the European Union, Catherine Fieschi, Counterpoint’s founding Director, answers some questions...