The #TTIX2015 takes place between the 18th – 20th February 2015 in Istanbul. It will bring together thinktankers from across the world and it promises to be a great opportunity to learn about their experiences and challenges. The TTI has set up a page for the event where details of the schedule and proceedings will be shared; and there you’ll have a chance to engage with the participants.
You can, of course, follow: #TTIX2015 to keep informed of the latest presentations and discussions as well as this blog post that will be updated as frequent as possible. Here are some highlights of the ‘call to arms’:
This is On Think Tanks’ own page for the event and will be updated as the week progresses.
If you want to share your views via On Think Tanks please do not hesitate to contact us: [email protected], @onthintanks or simply comment below. Send us videos, pictures, Storify stories, papers, presentations, anything you’d like us to share for you.
Last time they all met was in Cape Town in 2012. Here are a few posts we wrote and videos we shared about that event:
- Day one of the Think Tank Initiative’s exchange (@TTIX2012)
- Reflections on Bringing Think Tanks Together: a Community of Practice?
- Think Tank Initiative 2012 exchange: on building research capacity for ‘young’ think tanks (video)
- Think Tank Initiative 2012 Exchange: How a digital strategy can enhance think tank management, research and communications (video)
- Think Tank Initiative 2012 Exchange: Sustaining quality in social policy research – lessons learned from institutional approaches (video)
- Think Tank Initiative 2012 Exchange: on sustaining quality in economic policy research (video)
The think tanks
To set the scene, the TTI has published two infographics. The first one focuses on who the think tanks involved in the initiative are.(Unfortunately, the link is now broken).
And you can find more information about each think tank on the TTI’s own website: The think tanks.
The programme promises to cover a number of very interesting topics, including: research quality, collaboration, the role of think tanks in elections, etc. Below are some resources that can help you navigate the agenda. For more: go to the On Think Tanks Topic Pages.
Wednesday 18th: The focus is on research quality -although a parallel session on Thursday looks into this, too. Here are some interesting resources that could help and inspire an interesting conversation:
- Quality control: a few options for think tanks
- Peer review: experimenting with think tanks This is a series edited by Andrea Ordoñez
- Improving the quality of a think tank’s publications
- Ensuring good advice – the Managing Think Tanks Series
- LSE Impact of Social Science’s Blog has very useful information, knowledge and analysis
The first plenary session addressed the issue of research quality. A recurring topic had to do with the definition of quality. Does it have to do with relevance, interest, usefulness?
After a brief presentation participants were asked to pitch in. The discussion identify a number of issues that can explain research quality including: skills, resources, accessibility of data, and a health competition with checks and balances to create incentives to pay attention to quality.
There is a plenary session on what policymakers think of research:
Thinking about update got me thinking of a post that has got a few views recently: Who is responsible for think tank influence? Can think tanks claim influence?
There were many great pearls of knowledge shared by the panelists: policymakers from Africa, Asia and Latin America. Here are some that I captured:
This must be the best pearl of the morning:
There is a parallel session on impact evaluation methods which reminds of an excellent debate hosted by Duncan Green:
The parallel session on quality assurance mechanisms (on Thursday) includes a session on collaboration (see below).
In the evening there is a brief discussion on the role of think tanks in the Middle East. These resources could help:
Thursday 19th: The focus is on outreach and influence. On outreach and influence, here are some resources:
- A new political economy of research uptake – On Think Tanks
- Research uptake: what is it and can it be measured?
- Who is responsible for a think tank’s influence?
- Policy Window approach to influence
- Communications as an Orchestra
- A few initiatives, not many projects, may be the secret to success
- Undue influence about the NYT’s article on foreign funding of think tank in the US
- Topic Page: Monitoring and evaluating influence
The plenary session started with a series of films showing how think tanks had influence policy. The anti-tobacco campaign by CRES in Senegal demonstrates an important point to be made: evidence is just part of the equation. As Richard Darlington put it:
You can watch to CRES movie:
What happens to videos? They can be a very effective way of communicating. At On Think Tanks we have written quite a bit on them. Have a look at these guides from Caroline Cassidy and others, for instance:
- Different types of videos for different objectives
- The power of film: do it yourself Talking Head videos
- Turning your Talking Heads into a story
But a question I always ask is who watches these videos? Are they value for money communication tools? A think tank in Pakistan, SDPI has developed a possible solution for the videos produced by think tanks: develop a video channel for think tank videos.
On think tanks and elections (I’ll be moderating this session):
- Think tanks and the electoral process: lessons from Latin America edited by Leandro Echt
- Think tanks and elections: a series on experiences from around the world edited by Leandro Echt
- Think tanks and elections: experiences from around the world (this is a site prepared specifically for a panel session; and will continue to be updated throughout the conference)
The session on elections was hard to tweet about. But you can view the presentation here:
There is a session on data visualisation:
- On Think Tanks Data Visualisation Competition 2014: A Compilation
- How to guides on Data Visualisation by Jeff Knezovich: these include interactive guides and videos.
- The On Think Tanks Data Visualisation portal for more resources, tips, books, and competitions
- Inspiration from the Brookings’ Visual Impact Tumbler
Goran Buldioski Tweeted:
And here is Andrej Nosko’s presentation are worth thinking about:
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Richard Darlington offered some excellent #datavis advice, too:
- The On Think Tanks Exchange
- Latin American networking for think tanks: a decade in meetings
- Think tank networks: the holy grail?
- 3 lessons from working with African think tanks
- “People, not organisations, make for the best partners”
- The Think Tank Initiative´s Global Exchange: an opportunity to foster peer (and non-peer!) learning from Politics and Ideas
Vanesa Weyrauch facilitated this session. We heard about collaborations between think tanks, between researchers, and even between communicators. I’ll use two of Richard Darlington Tweets as a sample:
Friday 20th: Closing and a discussion on the TTI evaluation. Something on the TTI evaluation could be found here:
There is also space on Friday to discuss a number of topics -via an Open Space session. If I may, I think that there are a few issues that appear to be absent from such an important gathering (of course, I know it is not possible to cover everything) and that could be discussed in this session:
- Transparency: Last year saw the publication of the first report of Transparify. In fact,the #TTIX2015 will coincide with the launch of its second report on the 17th February (stay tuned for its launch). On Think Tanks took on the challenge to review the TTI grantees (and others). And as Orazio Bellettini argued in a post: this is not just the latest fad -it is a fundamental issue and it is here to stay. Think tanks are not the only responsible ones, though; their donors could do a lot more, too.
- (Domestic) Funding: This is related to Transparency, of course. Funding relates, as well, to the exit strategy of the TTI itself. This second exchange comes about 5 years after the TTI was launched. This is the second year of the second phase of the programme. When this is done, most of the think tanks involved will have been supported for 8 years. Quite a few, in fact, through a combination of TTI and past IDRC and DFID funding (two of the funders of the initiative) will have been supported for around two decades. Foreign funding of think tanks posses a number of challenges -some political, other technical, other just practical. To prosper, in the future, think tanks will have to find alternative, domestic, sources of funding. This series of posts on life after core funding by Gjergji Vurmo is one of the best things published on On Think Tanks last year.
Funding also relates to business or funding models for think tanks. Vanesa Weyrauch at Politics and Ideas has been working on this topic.
- Future leaders: In the past, TTI events (the global exchange and smaller ones) have involved at least two participants from each think tank: the director and often the head of research. Events like these are a great opportunity to introduce young bright policy entrepreneurs to the community of think tank leaders. A few of the think tanks in the TTI network have gone through and other are facing difficult transition processes. As is often the case, think tanks (and research communities) are rather good at breeding researchers but don’t excel at breeding think tank directors: researcher-communication-manager all-rounder. This is not an easy profile to find. The #TTIX2015 would be a perfect introduction to an intensive-executive-Master in Think Tank Administration for any prospective future think tank leader. (Or they can join the School of Thinktankers.)
Who else to follow?
Besides the official site, check out the following for more information, insights, analysis and advice -on the #TTIX2015 and related issues:
- WonkComms, @wonkcomms and @richarddarlington
- Politics and Ideas, @politics_ideas and @weyrauchv
- Work in Progres, @RuthLevine5, @sarahtlucas and @PeterdaCosta2
- @gbuldioski and Think Tank Fund Facebook Page
- @CSTEPBangalore and Aditi Bulletin
- @TTI_ITT and @suttonshan