Our History

Since 1971, PIRC has focussed on a number of different public interest causes.

Founded by Charles Medawar and Michael Young, we set out to develop and apply methods to assess corporate performance, focusing on the issue of excessive secrecy in British governance. Much of our early work was of an investigative nature, uncovering the (usually negative) impact of corporations and public bodies on people, communities and the environment.

As society became increasingly aware of climate change and the need for widespread understanding and action, PIRC shifted its focus accordingly. Between 2005 and 2010, under the leadership of Tim Helweg-Larsen, we worked to stimulate the environmental debate in the UK, giving others the space to push for deeper change in policy and attitudes.

It was partly through witnessing the limits of the environmental movement, in particular its over-reliance on communicating information without an understanding of psychology, that we developed a crucial aspect of its approach: working on values in collaboration with The Common Cause Foundation. During this time, PIRC published the Common Cause Handbook and ran over 100 workshops for campaigners, activists, artists, trade unionists and politicians who worked on everything from human rights to tax to climate change. We worked with campaigners and communicators to apply values to three key areas of their work: what they called for (the ultimate change they wanted to see); how they organised (the structures and dynamics in their own teams), and how they engaged people (framing).

This led us to our current focus: developing participatory approaches to framing and informed our decision, in 2015, to transition to a flat management structure.

Read even more about PIRC’s history.