On Think Tanks was founded in 2010 as a personal blog. I wanted to explore a type of organisation that increasingly featured in the literature and in efforts to strengthen policymaking in the developing world. I felt (and still feel) they could play a positive role in supporting evidence informed policy-making. Since, the topic has gained notoriety and interest in think tanks and the wider evidence informed policy-making agenda has increased.
Over the years OTT added services, knowledge and initiatives for think tanks and the for the evidence informed policy-making world. This is our story at 10 years old.
Today, OTT is a global platform dedicated to the study and support of policy research centres. Our team (including trainers and board members) live and work in 6 continents and our readers reflect this diversity. The UK and the US make up about 40% of the visitors to our site. The rest of our readership comes from 160 other countries!
You can read more about us our 2019/20 Annual Review on Technology
And find out more about our 2020 Annual Conference on Technology (online)
Thanks to the support of the Hewlett Foundation, we have been able to establish a team, an advisory board, launch new initiatives and develop a long term plan. Hewlett’s support is channelled through Universidad del Pacifico, in Peru. This offers a new opportunity: a southern based initiative with global aspirations.
What we do
The OTT Strategy for 2019-2021+ provides a guide to our plans. It boils down to:
Services and resources:
Newsletters, a jobsboard, an events calendar and advice.
New data, research, analysis, resources and features on think tanks and best practices, including a new Working Paper Series in partnership with the University of Bath and Universidad del Pacifico and an Open Think Tank Directory.
Through the On Think Tanks School (OTT School), we provide online and face to face training, including a Winterschool in Geneva in partnership with foraus, the Think Tank Hub Geneva and Southern Voice.
Convening and engagement:
We incorporate contributors, collaborators, OTT School alumni and Fellows into the OTT community and support local, regional and global efforts that share our values and objectives. Find out more about this community, which we hope you will be able to join!
OTT Initiatives are programmes or projects that combine research and practice to strengthen think tanks and their supporters. They include local level, national, and international efforts often involving think tanks themselves as key partners. In the last few years we have launched the OTT School, the OTT Data Visualisation Competition, OTT TV, a Latin American Evidence Week (which we hope to replicate in other regions), a think tank awards for Peru (which we hope to take to other countries), the OTT Exchange, the Open Think Tanks Directory, and the OTT Working Paper Series. We also founded Politics&Ideas and continue to support efforts such as Transparify
Our content is centred around five main themes: governance and management, research, communications and impact, funding and supporting think tanks, and understanding think tanks.
Our publications include briefs, reports, papers, compilations, and books. Our resources include manuals, videos, and publications. They present a range of solutions to common challenges that think tanks face. We also produce edited series on key issues, countries or regions. These series offer the readers a combination of in-depth analysis and insights.
Why do we do this?
We believe that decisions are better when they are informed by evidence. The emergence and growth of think tanks in developing countries is promising: local solutions to local problems. We want to keep supporting this growth and encourage think tanks to reshape themselves, adapt to their contexts and continue to generate research to inform policy.
We are looking for support to do more and to do it better. You can support OTT by:
- Contributing to the global OTT Strategy
- Funding the OTT Strategy with a regional or policy issue emphasis
- Funding one or more initiatives and/or their implementation in a region or around a
- policy issue of interest
Regional or thematic support
Although OTT is a global initiative, we also want to engage at a level closer to think tanks and their communities. It is our intention to ensure a good balance between different regions. Support from regional funders would allow us to provide more content relevant to the region, including:
- Job opportunities and upcoming events about think tanks in the region
- New articles, interviews and series on specific issues concerning think tanks in the region
- Videos on think tanks in the region to raise their profile and share best practices, and encourage the publication of new research on policy research
- Tailored capacity building activities through the OTT School, adapting and customising course content and approach, offering scholarships to thinktankers and policy entrepreneurs and encouraging more young leaders to join the School for Thinktankers
- Events to discuss the role of think tanks and evidence informed policy
- More representatives from the region present at our annual conference and more thinktankers writing and sharing their ideas through the OTT platform
- A more comprehensive database of think tanks from the region to encourage greater interaction between think tanks and promote more research about them
We are also interested in incorporating a thematic angle to our work. For instance, we could also focus these services on think tanks and thinktankers within the education, health and other sectors.
We believe that we offer more than “outputs”. On Think Tanks has always followed these principles:
Be inclusive and global, take the initiative, rock the boat and be an honest source of ideas and advice.
But we are also driven by these values:
Search for the truth, seek justice and create the opportunities for the sector to find its own voice.
As such, OTT can provide a valuable service to funders of policy research.
We would love to learn more about your work related to policy research and evidence informed policy and help share your experiences and lessons.
We feel that encouraging these interactions and developing engaging relationships with thinktankers, research centres and their supporters are fundamental to our mission.
If you would like to chat further about our work and how you can support us, drop me a line at [email protected].
Founder and Director, On Think Tanks