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Posts from the ‘Opinion’ Category

Organisational change in think tanks: it takes more than great plans

Organisational change is becoming as core an activity as research for many think tanks. Funding is increasingly conditioned to changes or reforms within the organisation. Not all think tanks have the capacity to manage this change, however. They can learn from each other, they can contract experts and consultants to support them, and they may even rely on their own skills. But many more could do with more support on this front. Think tank funders interested in organisational development should invest in their own organisational change capacity to service the think tanks they support.

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What is a think tank? Defining the boundaries of the label

The exact definition of think tanks eludes us. With more and more organisations using the label to describe themselves, how can we decide what is and what isn't one. The Premio PODER to the best Peruvian think tanks provides an opportunity to set out the boundaries of a fluid and porous definition. One that is likely to change over time as more (or fewer) organisations assume the functions we associate with think tanks.

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Think tanks and electoral processes: an opportunity that should not be missed

About 4 years ago, Fernando Straface from CIPPEC called for Latin American think tanks to share what he called a new technology of influence in electoral years. After close to a decade of projects in more than 5 countries in the region, it is now possible to share this innovation with others. This series has presented some of the lessons learned by think tanks in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina and Paraguay. In this post, Enrique Mendizabal argues for its replicability in other regions and provides some advice on how to go about it.

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#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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