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Posts from the ‘Reviews’ Category

New Topic Pages: an On Think Tanks digest

After 4 years of On Think Tanks there are quite a lot of posts on the blog. Even I have lost track of some of them, and the ideas they contain. Tomás Garzón de la Roza and Leandro Echt have edited 9 Topic Pages to help you, the reader, navigate through close to 600 posts.

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What do policymakers want?

What do policymakers want? Three studies, one from the White House, one from Whitehall, and one from Australia, provide excellent information and insights into what they need from researchers and how they prefer to get it. You may not be surprised to find that they like theory and distrust anyone who talks more jargon than them.

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Think Tanks transparency: a new opportunity thanks to Transparify

Over the next few weeks I will be reviewing the transparency of think tanks in different programmes using Transparify's approach. I hope this analysis will contribute to greater openness among think tanks as well as their supporters. This post outlines the approach taken and links to the ratings themselves.

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Corporate interests and think tanks: an overview of current debates

To be sustainable think tanks have to court the private sector (this is where the money is, after all), whether directly or indirectly by means of their foundations. But, as any half-baked economics think tanks would know: there is no such thing as a free lunch. So: how to get funded and remain independent (or at least intellectually autonomous)? Tranfarify offers some answers (and a lot more questions).

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On the KSI pilot evaluation and lessons for the programme implementation

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.

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You may be proud of being ranked as a top think tank, but what about your staff?

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.

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Supporting think tanks series: synthesis of the think pieces -(possible) recommendations

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.

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Our Policy Engagement and Communications (PEC) Program: On the importance of flexibility

In this post, Julie LaFrance from the Think Tank Initiative, reflects on some of the lessons the programme has learned in supporting think tanks. She argues that greyer flexibility from donors (and the various contractors they use) is necessary to support think tanks in a way that suits their own interests and possibilities. Important lessons for any 'demand-driven' initiative.

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“People with competence, freedom, and responsibility are the key to success”

Governance and management remain two key challenges for think tanks in developing countries. Unfortunately, manuals, guides, and workshops won't do it. But until the next generation of think tank managers is ready to take over, CGD offers and interesting model to follow: hire the right people, give them freedom, and shared responsibility over the think tank's leadership.

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For think tanks, big is not always better

Growth has become a way of life for many think tanks. Growth means more income, it means covering more policy issues, more visibility, more influence. But growth can also come with higher costs, complexity, mixed messages, fuzzy missions, etc. CGD's Lawrence MacDonald and Todd Moss offer their view on avoiding growth inertia.

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