Think tanks often struggle to keep up with an ever changing agenda. Their efforts to influence unexpected and often chaotic policy processes present significant challenges to their typically project-based business models. By adopting a policy window approach to their research and communications work, however, they may be able to gain some control over their environment.
Posts from the ‘Opinion’ Category
This post argues that we cannot continue to accept the oversimplification of the complex relationship between ideas, politics and the efforts to transform them. Accepting expressions like "research to action" and "evidence informed/based policy" reinforces the notion that there is a natural and unlovable pecking and logic order: first research then influence. Instead, change, within and outside an organisation, happens in the midst of a co-evolution of influencing objectives and efforts.
What can plural think tanks do when faced with a highly political and ideologically charged issues? They cannot fully commit to a single policy option when some of their own researchers are fiercely against it. This kind of internal opposition can even kill great ideas. This blog post puts forward a new approach for plural think tanks. It argues that it is possible to be the source of a solution even if this solution has been developed elsewhere. Creating the space for debate is a function that needs to be given more attention to.
Transapreify has shared some interesting data on 21 US think tanks. We put together a few data visualisations to see if we could make a bit more sense of the data. The picture is a complex and exiting one. It turns out that being big does not necessarily mean you are more visible and this says little about the perception others have of you. When it comes to think tank, painting by numbers if not enough; we need a freestyle painting.
Public events are an excellent communication and convening tool for think tanks but few use them to their full potential. This post outlines some advice on how to produce an event for impact. It argues that events can be cheap and entertaining -for speakers and audiences alike- but they have to be produced more carefully.
Foreign funding for think tanks has raised a few eyebrows lately. There is an increasing concern that this involves meddling with domestic politics. In developing countries this comes alongside an already very drying up of foreign funds for research. Domestic funders, especially corporations, foundations and individual philanthropists will have to step in to pick up the bill. Think tanks, however, will have to rethink how they raise funds and work if they want to tap into this opportunity.