Think Tanks: At Work – 2010-2011 Think Tank Initiative Annual Report

1 December 2011

Yesterday I mentioned the latest TTI annual report on a post that put forward some ideas to be considered, hopefully, by the TTI.

The report has now been published on line, including a version in Spanish.

I had a chance to read it and have to say that it get very close to being a report about think tanks as much as a report about the initiative itself. It offers accounts from various think tanks, a review of the areas of work and focus of the grantees (it would be great to play a bit with that data -for instance, science and technology is largely absent; with some exceptions), and some interesting information about assumptions underpinning the initiative.

There are also some very specific examples of how the think tanks in the initiative have used the core funds they have received:

The Ugandan Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) and the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in Kenya have purchased costly statistical and modelling software. The simple ability to afford the appropriate tools has led to the production of more robust research.

The Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF), in Tanzania, reduced its share of commissioned work and is now focusing on a number of strategic projects. What used to stand alone as a commissioned research unit has now been reintegrated into the unit responsible for research and publications.

The Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), in Ghana, has built new relationships with public and private media to better communicate its research results to the policy community, civil society organizations, and the private sector.

The African Institute for Applied Economics (AIAE), in Nigeria, has improved its governance systems and better communicates with and reports to its Board of Directors, which has resulted in increasing support from its governing bodies.

Fundación ARU in Bolivia, one of the program’s younger institutions, has begun setting up the organizational structure that will sustain its policy research activities: it has defined its long-term research agenda, increased its pool of researchers, and designed a new governance structure that separates the strategic and executive functions.

Another Bolivian institution, the Instituto de Estudios Avanzados en Desarrollo (INESAD), has seen its visibility increase through being associated with the Think Tank Initiative. New donors have approached the institution for the first time to explore partnerships.

Grupo FARO, in Ecuador, has created a new Research Director position, which in turn has supported the implementation of formal systems of research quality control and support for researchers, resulting in improved research products and dissemination.

The Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) has adapted the Initiative’s monitoring and evaluation tools to improve its own internal organizational performance monitoring system. The discussion and planning that went into the development of this monitoring and evaluation system has created awareness of organizational strengths and weaknesses among the staff, which has also increased motivation and pride.

The Public Affairs Centre (PAC), in India, has organized exchange platforms where staff from like-minded organizations based in other countries, and even other regions, visit the institution for mutual capacity building.

These are interesting ‘findings’. It shows the different types of priorities that think tanks have: improving their research capacity, their organisational structure and governance, their communications and engagement, and defining a strategic direction. There are other examples not mentioned in the report: FUSADES and KIPPRA have organised study tours to visit organisations in other countries. GRADE is working on its research agenda. IEP is working on its communications and M&E strategy. Et cetera.

Read the full report in English and Spanish.