Supporting think tanks is a complex matter. DFAT (Australia) has taken on a massive task of developing the knowledge sector in Indonesia, of which think tanks are a part of. An evaluation of a pilot offered some recommendations that were duly considered by the funder. Here, I offer some comments on the recommendations and the funder's response.
Posts from the ‘Reviews’ Category
Evaluations and Rankings can hide the reality of many organisations. It is perfectly possible to be influential and popular while everyone working at the think tank is unhappy and even miserable. An organisation that can be seen, from the outside, to be the envy of all others could be gone from one day to the other if its governance and management is not up to scratch. Here is an example from Sweden.
This second post based on a series of think pieces written on supporting think tanks focuses on practical advice for the Knowledge Sector Initiative and similar efforts. It suggests that greater attention must be place on the environment of think tanks and other policy research actors. Of particular importance is to understand the real relationship between donors, grantees, and any contractors charged with delivering the initiatives' missions.
Thomas Medvetz 2013 book, Think Tanks in America, describes think tanks as political operators and provides a great account of how they go about claiming and gaining political power for themselves and their sector. The book provides a critical history of think tanks in the US that shines a new light on them; from technocratic and neutral knights to ideological and partisan knaves (not all of course). Read the book.
William Savedoff, senior fellow at CGD writes about Thomas Seeley’s Honeybee Democracy, drawing lessons for think tanks and conferences. It’s clever and quite funny – and also offers some good, constructive advice about how think tankers can be a bit more like honeybees when trying to come to collective decisions or sharing good ideas.