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Posts from the ‘Reviews’ Category

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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A few initiatives, not many projects, may be the secret to success

Lawrence MacDonald and Todd Moss have published an essay that seeks to distill what they think they have learned in the past dozen years since the Center for Global Development's foundation. These lessons are of great relevance to organisations thinking about reviewing their research agendas and organisational strategies. In this post we consider how the initiatives approach can help think tanks organise themselves, seek influence, and assess their success.

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‘Think tanks in America’ by Thomas Medvetz

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.

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Monitoring and evaluation for management

When donors think of M&E they tend to think of demonstrating influence; but when think tanks think of M&E their first concern is how this may help them improve their own internal management. Monitoring and evaluation for management ought to be the first concern of donors, but it isn't. This post presents a useful review of tools for management that think tanks could use.

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Be like a honeybee: Conferences and collective decision-making

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.

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