Do think tanks need to start rebuilding trust? – Ismael Palacin | OTT Conference 2024 keynote address

5 June 2024
SERIES OTT Conference – Think tanks and their communities

Ismael Palacín, Director of Fundació Bofill, Spain, delivers his keynote address at the OTT Conference 2024, in Barcelona.


You can follow Ismael’s presentation here: Ismael Palacin Keynote Address OTT Conference 2024

The summary below has been generated using ChatGPT.


Ismael Palacín’s presentation explores the challenges faced by think tanks in a shifting social, political, and institutional landscape where trust and consensus are declining.

Key concerns

Palacín emphasises the following key concerns:

  • Declining Trust: The impact on social and political trust affects think tanks’ effectiveness.
  • Fragmented Targets: Diverse and divided audiences complicate policy impact.
  • Complex Policies: Difficulty in deploying effective, evidence-based policies.
  • Legitimacy and Equity: Challenges in maintaining legitimacy and addressing controversial equity policies.

Traditional Effectiveness

Palacín outlines that think tanks have traditionally been effective through:

  • Research and evidence-based policy advice.
  • Independent and expert-driven approaches.
  • Publishing and advocating for policy changes.
  • Influencing policymakers, stakeholders, and the media.

Reasons to Persist

Despite challenges, Palacín argues that the current model remains cost-effective and impactful in setting agendas and reframing subjects. Shifting away from proven strategies risks weakening strengths.

Evolving Strategies

Palacín suggests that think tanks are encouraged to:

  • Persist and Partner: Focus on core strengths and build new partnerships.
  • Evolve Strategy: Integrate new tools and adapt to the changing landscape.
  • Transform Model: Become community-builders and engage citizens directly.

Future Trends

Palacín discusses possible future trends for think tanks, including:

  • Converging on evolved models for greater impact.
  • Specialising strategies based on mission and context.
  • Exploring other innovative trends to stay relevant.

The Bofill Foundation’s Journey

Palacín highlights that the foundation, based in Barcelona, focuses on education to address social inequalities, democratic governance, and immigration policies. They have evolved their strategies over time, emphasising high-impact educational reforms and innovative approaches for equity.

Current Challenges

The foundation is addressing four big challenges:

  1. Learning Communities: Promoting local ecosystems of out-of-school opportunities.
  2. Zero Drop-Out: Preventing early school leaving with effective policies.
  3. Schools of Opportunity: Transforming underserved schools.
  4. Digital Equity: Enhancing digital learning in poor communities.

Mixed Strategy

Palacín describes that the foundation employs a mixed strategy, including:

  • Leading living labs to develop solutions.
  • Advocacy and campaigns for social awareness and policy changes.
  • Building capacity and leadership through training and tools.
  • Developing scalable programmes and promoting citizen engagement.

Empowering Communities

Palacín asserts that effective community empowerment involves:

  • Creating shared visions and milestones.
  • Building open ecosystems and strategic research.
  • Engaging citizens and media in policy challenges.

New Problems

Despite increased impact, Palacín acknowledges that new problems arise:

  • Communities may not align with equity priorities.
  • Investment in community building can be substantial.
  • Balancing impact focus with maintaining a global approach.


Ismael Palacín concludes that the presentation emphasises the need for think tanks to adapt, persist, and innovate to remain effective in a changing world, while maintaining their core strengths and exploring new strategies to rebuild trust and enhance impact.