This is not from a think tank but the Zambian Economist blog performs very similar duties to one. And the purpose statement ought to inspire some think tanks (the emphasis is mine):
The aim is to provide “a non-political platform for exchanging ideas on the many issues facing our nation”. This is not to say political issues are not discussed here, we do as politics and economics tend to be inseparable (see the tag cloud on politics). It essentially means three things:
Learning: It is our hope that this website will enable everyone to learn more about Zambia (a sort of independent economic source about our country). Often as individuals and citizens, we build up “priors” or preconceived ideas. It is good to see those tested and refined so that our individual perspectives on life and issues facing Zambia continues to improve. It gives us an unparalleled opportunity to research areas we know nothing about, by being free to debate and ask questions, with the full certainty that an answer will pop up from another contributor.Influencing: We want to see Zambia become better than it is [This is the best purpose statement ever -too bad no donor would be satisfied]. There’s no reason why after 44 years of independence many of our people live in abject poverty. It is deeply frustrating to see that often the politics get in the way of intelligent and effective dialogue on life and death issues. Many Zambians just want to see things get done, regardless of the chitenge you wear. More importantly, many Zambians have the solutions to make our nation better, but have no avenue for communicating their thoughts or debate them with other people. They simply wonder why is it that something so simple cannot be fixed? Or why has that never been tried? Or where can I know more about X? This website is a small step towards offering a platform to ask and debate such questions. It exists to try and encourage positive dialogue on the many pressing challenges facing the nation. Its strength is drawn from the many contributors who sacrifice their time to understand the pressing issues and offer meaningful exchanges on many areas, and have fun doing it!
Sharing: We can all influence and learn as individuals from a closed room! But our culture emphasises the village community and the beauty of interactions. Blogging together allows us to interact with other Zambians (and friends of Zambia) thinking about the same issues and share experiences. We believe there’s much to be gained not just in reading what people write, but also understanding why people write the way they write. It’s our goal therefore to ensure that at all times, Zambian Economist remains a friendly relaxed site.
So influence is about public conversation, understanding each other (not just accepting what we re told), developing our ideas with others in the process of that conversation. And all we want is for things to be better.