What if …?

A series of challenging propositions

The Howard League/ Mannheim Centre partnership brings together two institutions with a tradition in radical thought.

Purpose of the What if…? series

The Howard League in collaboration with the Mannheim Centre at the London School of Economics are working together to develop and nurture new ideas that may be taken forward by opinion formers and translated into future policies and legislation. 

The premise is to produce a pamphlet series that challenges conventional thinking about various aspects of the criminal and penal system.  We will work with established and authoritative thinkers, academics and practitioners, to develop innovative, and potentially controversial, ideas that will stimulate new thinking and contribute to novel policy initiatives.

The underlying purpose of the “What if …?” series would be to achieve change. 

Recent what ifs

How it works

The Howard League and the LSE will work together to:

  • identify areas of  policy that we feel could benefit from reform but are also topical and chime with wider public agendas  
  • nominate potential “What if ...?”  proposers  to deliver a lecture, polemical in style,  drawing on an evidence base to promote an alternative approach to an issue
  • invite discussants to challenge and debate the proposition and its practical application
  • publicise the lectures in order to engage with professionals and the wider public to canvas broader perspectives and extend the area  for questioning.

Each author is asked to:

  • develop an idea (e.g. what if … the age of criminal responsibility was increased to 14 years?); 
  • critically assess the current position
  • identify a primarily evidence based argument for change.  

What if? Peer review events

The author would then be invited to subject their ideas to academic and practitioner ‘peer review’ at a public lecture hosted at and chaired by the LSE. Alongside the discussants’ efforts, we will engage with an informed audience to effectively scrutinise the ideas presented.

The discussant(s) would present their challenge to the proposition to which the originating author would have right of reply. The debate will then be opened to the participating audience. The result would be a testing of concept and proofing the argument.

Following the public lecture and discussion, the author will be invited to prepare the paper for publication by the LSE? with the possibility of augmenting the proposal by addressing the issues and challenges raised  at the event.

The Howard League for Penal Reform would undertake to further publicise the proposition. Depending on the issue and the potential interest it may organise an additional event and/or a multi-platform media launch. 


What if? - Peer review events

We are keen to test, challenge and improve the initial ideas to be promulgated in the pamphlet.

To achieve this, the author subjects their ideas to ‘peer review’ at an invitee seminar, with the ideas initially subject to scrutiny from one or two discussants and then from the invited audience