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Posts from the ‘Opinion’ Category

#TheExchangeJakarta: learning about collaboration from the On Think Tanks Exchange

The On Think Tanks Exchange is coming to Jakarta this week. This post outlines some of the lessons that the participating think tanks have learned already. The post also presents links to papers and posts written by the participants themselves. This week, follow us: #TheExchangeJakarta

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Is too much transparency a bit of a problem?

Do we really want to know who funds or funded think tanks and researchers? Do we want to know all about how they get their funding, who they've worked with, or for in the past? In this post, I play devil's advocate and present some arguments against complete transparency. Would it make it impossible for the system to function?

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Scenarios for the future of think tank support initiatives

The move towards long term institutional support for think tanks has led to great improvements in their capacity. There are already a number of stories of success coming from initiatives like the TTI and KSI. But what will happen when they come to an end? Will they? How could these initiatives look like in the future and how could thinking about these scenarios today help them to achieve their objectives?

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Think Tanks Stress Test

Think tanks can be fragile organisations. They may look strong and solid but could, overnight, lose funding and staff and see their fortunes change. Unlike other organisations they cannot map out a steady stream of contracts or sales. Funding will largely depend on facts such as: the political cycle, the interests of funders in far away lands (and driven by their own politics), the capacity of key researchers to attract funds, the laws that they have little influence over. This post outlines a number of questions that think tanks could ask themselves (our could be asked about them) to assess the soundness of their business model.

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Undue influence: what is it, how is it exerted, and how to address it in the future?

Extra, extra, think tanks are funded by foreign governments! This may have come as a shock to the readers of the New York Times but its an every day affair for think tanks in the developing world. This blog provides an overview of some of the mechanisms through which foreign funders fund think tanks in developing countries. Some pose significant challenges to their credibility and independence. Looking forward, a balance of foreign versus domestic funding will have to change.

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Think tank accountability: are they really just hired guns or is it slightly more complicated than that?

Questions over think tank foreign funding have opened the door to a very interesting debate in the US. Concerns for foreign funding are also present in developing countries -India being one example. In this blog post, Enrique Mendizabal argues that what matters most isn't the source of the funding but the conditions attached to it. Greater transparency could help address concerns.

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How to encourage researchers to publish more

In this post Enrique Mendizabal presents several ideas to increase think tanks' publications numbers. Using associates, introducing publication targets, and investing in new skills and systems, think tanks can avoid falling into a publications' draught. Once in one, it will be harder to turn things around.

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How to influence a group of selfish agents? Lessons from sheepdogs

Sheepdogs have developed the perfect strategy to drive sheep into their pens. Can think tanks learn anything from them? This post presents 3 simple roles to follow.

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Think tanks should not be afraid to borrow money

Should think tanks borrow money from a bank? They could be missing out on a great opportunity to take the initiative and invest in their future for lack of knowledge and adversity to risk.

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The art of creating time: invest, don’t spend

Are some organisations too successful for their own good? How can think tanks take a brake from donor led project funding to develop their own agendas and take the initiative on the projects that they pursue? In this post, Enrique Mendizabal offers some advice based on his own experience. He argues that think tanks must change the way they think about the way the spend their profits: think investment, not expenses.

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