Foreign funders need proof of their grantees' influence because they do not know enough about their political contexts. If think tank funders were less like risk-adverse tourist and more like local politically engaged citizens they would not demand impact evaluations and complicated indicators of influence. But to avoid this, funding needs to be local.
Posts from the ‘Think Tanks’ Category
Calls for new think tanks in Africa are getting more common. But while some see an opportunity for supporting the formation of several think tanks others favour large national Brookings-style centres. One big one or a few small ones?
Think tanks are too passive when it comes to the design of initiatives intended to support them. Funders and contractors treat them as recipients of Aid and think tanks let this happen. Instead, they should take the initiative and improve their negotiation position by developing, in collaboration with others, their own support plans.
Few think tanks ever communicate anything but their own research but in fact, think tanks rarely have all the ideas themselves. Policy Exchange in the UK has come up (or probably learned it from somewhere else) with a solution: a Call for Evidence.
Should think tanks charge for content as an approach to increase and diversify their revenue sources? Maybe -or maybe not. But it might be worth exploring what models are out there and how they could be adapted for think tanks. One in particular, the live-gig model offers them a chance to raise income and reach key audiences.
Think tanks can be used to reach out to the middle classes and the general public, too. It is not just a matter of influencing high level policies and policymakers. This education function, however, could be achieved by supporting the development of a more diverse and dynamic research and policy community.
Attempts to measure influence miss out on two fundamental questions related to current efforts and ideas focused on monitoring and evaluating think tanks: who is responsible for a think tank's influence? and what are they actually responsible for? Attempting to answer them led to two further issues: a question: when should think tanks claim influence? and, a conclusion: any claims of influence are political acts; they are claims of power over others.