A Conversation with: Caroline Macfarland, Founder of CoVi Think Tank

Welcome to my conversation with the innovative, hard-working, and articulate Caroline Macfarland, founder and executive director of the first visual and crowdsourced think tank: CoVi. Caroline was named one of Management Today’s 35 Women under 35 in 2015 for her progressive work in the think tank world.  Previously the Managing Director of think tank Respublica and adviser to the Big Lottery Fund, the largest charitable funder in the UK, Caroline went on to found CoVi, a think tank based in Somerset House, London.  While conventional think tanks often conduct research and produce large reports at the end of the process to disseminate conclusions, CoVi seeks to involve the public in their work by producing content  each step of the way. Often, this content is visually oriented and innovative, encouraging inactive political populations to engage in discussions about important issues in the UK and around the world. As they say in their mission statement, CoVi aims to “promote civic engagement beyond a politically active minority.”

Our conversation steered towards how Caroline gained a sense of clarity in her professional life, how she dealt with the challenges of starting an organization from the ground up, and if her definition of success has changed in the process.  She also gives insight into the resonance of political issues around the world, and the potential problems of thinking that  one’s viewpoint and problems are singular to his or her own community or country.

The conversation in full is available at the end of this article, or continue below to listen in on video highlights of the creation of CoVi, the difficulties that millennials are now facing in the workforce, and political tensions and the concept of the Common Good.

Caroline explains that she never intended to work in think tanks, but that her career ambitions inadvertently led her into this realm.

“My career ambitions were originally to go into PR and Communications because I thought the way you communicate ideas is the way in which you change the world.”

She elaborates on CoVi’s mission to revive the concept of the common good, and we discuss how political tensions are exacerbated by a lack of global awareness.

“We live in a world where people are less affiliated with traditional institutions or conventional social divides. So, I think applying the common good to politics is something which is responsive to the ways in which people don’t have those traditional allegiances anymore, and they are less likely to define as left-wing or right-wing…and more likely to identify with a balance of ideas and opinions.”

CoVi does a lot of work with millennials (or generation y) members. We discuss how the job market that young people are facing is overwhelming in the amount of different careers available.

“There’s a lot more freedom and there’s a lot more openness about what we do in life generally. And I think that’s a really massive opportunity but it’s also quite a challenge as well. There are too many options sometimes.”

Watch my full conversation with Caroline here:

My podcast about this conversation will be released next week on iTunes and Soundcloud. I will have a new conversation on this website in two weeks!

Thank you for listening or watching. Speak to you soon,


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