The centerpiece of the British-American Project is its annual conference, held in November each year and alternating between the US and the UK. In November 2010, this gathering will take place in Philadelphia – where BAP was founded 25 years ago!.
In the birthplace of freedom, the conference will explore “Freedoms: NEW AND OLD”. Robust and stimulating sessions are planned exploring such matters as the Trade Off between Freedom and Security, the Tension between Free Markets and Regulation, Freedom of Religion versus Freedom from Religion, Health Care Freedoms and the Health Care Debate.
The overarching aim of the yearly conference is to provide a wide range of stimuli to provoke thought and debate, to inform and challenge, and to foster greater understanding between participants about competing views on a topic, and of course we discuss the similarities and differences between the two countries’ attitudes to the issues addressed during the conference.
BAP conferences examine universal questions, but they also lead an influential American audience to focus on British social and economic issues, and vice versa.
- In 1999, at Harrogate in Yorkshire, the Project discussed the arts and their role in society: do the arts really matter? How can they be made more accessible? Who should pay for them?
- 2000’s conference in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, took innovation as its focal point - the power of new ideas in government, media, business, economics and education. How do we invent and implement? Who has the power to choose which ideas are put into practice? Can we design with ideas or do we simply post-rationalise random happenings? Who owns innovation and how are the benefits fairly and efficiently distributed?
- 2001’s theme was ethics at Oxford and it led to spirited debate about the ethics of newsgathering, medicine, business ethics and the changed world of foreign policy since September 11th.
- The theme for the 2002 conference in Washington DC was public interest: this elusive concept was explored in connection with a number of topics live on both sides of the Atlantic such as the decline in democratic participation, new approaches to crime and punishment, and public/private issues in business, education and health.
- The 2003 conference took place in Cardiff, Wales when the theme was Our Shared Future and we explored a wide range of ethical, marketing, social and business issues influenced by our changing demographics and ageing populations.
- In 2004, we were in Chicago finding out what makes a city and region work. Chicago was a wonderful laboratory for observing innovative urban policies, and to compare and contrast the different political structures at a regional level in the US and UK.
- It was Birmingham, England, in 2005 where the theme was Social Enterprise and we visited some of the best examples of thriving businesses in the UK With a range of high profile speakers we debated the role of business in society, and, of course, the transatlantic relationship.
- BAP went to Boston Massachusetts in 2006, and explored the theme of Education. For three days – at the heart of what is arguably the capital of American education – we discussed education with an array of experts from both countries, including Larry Summers, former President of Harvard and President Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, and Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspector of English schools. The debate covered the existence and the nature of the crisis in education, both in the UK and the US.
- In November 2007 we met in Newcastle upon Tyne and the conference theme was ‘Faith and Justice’. The conference was designed to show case the North East of England. We debated and discussed the topic and experienced some of the practical realities by visiting prisons in the region. Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty (and BAP member) chaired a session of BAP members involved in faith, and Baroness Hale, the first female law Lord, addressed the conference. We also had a lively question and answer session with the US Ambassador, Robert Tuttle.
- This theme in Los Angeles 2008 was Re-thinking Popular Culture. LA was the perfect backdrop, as the home of America's biggest export, entertainment. Delegates were jointed by an impressive line-up of major players within the industry to debate celebrity culture, the difference between Generation X and Y, new media and much more. Inevitably, the economic crisis and the election of Barack Obama were also high on the agenda.
- Last year the theme was “From Abundance to Scarcity – Sustainability and Development in the 21st. Century”. The conference focused on the changing landscape of risk and opportunity in an increasingly resource constrained world. Some of the questions debated were: How can the pillars of prosperity – energy security, food security, water security and climate security be maintained? How will this challenge be affected by the deepening global recession? Will it be possible to keep an open global system in the face of these pressures? Must globalisation of opportunity now be accompanied by globalisation of responsibility? If so, what role should the US and the UK play in making this happen?
Each conference sparks a wide-ranging exchange of ideas conducted in a distinctive style, combining plenary debates with visits to local institutions and projects and creative work in small groups. Most Delegates find their first BAP conference a profoundly invigorating intellectual experience. Many Fellows return again and again, cementing transatlantic social and professional relationships which could not otherwise have been created. All participants leave the conferences with a better understanding of the lives of others and of the importance of transatlantic ties.