OTT Conference 2020: the 3rd online event

Organised by On Think Tanks
Event type Event
Location Online
Start date 10 November 2020
End date 11 November 2020

Back in 2017 we held our first OTT Conference in London. Almost four years later, we are happy to say that the OTT Conference is now an annual event which brings together thinktankers, think tank scholars, funders and policymakers from around the world. For our 2020 conference we intended to be in Berlin but, instead, we adapted our plans and split the face-to-face event into three online events.

After our first two online events in March and June, we are ready for the third and final online event for 2020! On November 10 we will be discussing ethics and integrity, and on 11 November we will host a series of workshops and fringe events.

If you would like to join us, please register here

We are updating the agenda regularly.

Find out more about the 2020 online OTT Conferences: here and here

Find out more about our previous conferences here

Day 1: 10 November
Ethics and integrity

(All times in CET)

Opening remarks

16:10 – 17:00
Keynote and Q&A

Ethical dilemmas for think tanks: Drawing bright lines
Ruth Levine, CEO of IDInsight

Back in 2018, Ruth Levine spoked at the OTT Conference in London about the moral case for evidence in policymaking. For our third online event of 2020, she revisits her argument in a new keynote reflecting on her more recent experience as the head of IDinsight.

17:10 – 18:30
Parallel sessions

Parallel 1: Ethics in research
with Douglas Mackay (University of North Carolina), hosted by Norma Correa (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú)

Think tanks do not often consider the ethical implications of their research methods. Douglas has reflected on the ethics of public policy RCTs. In his presentation, Douglas will consider issues such as (lack of) consent of participants, distributive justice and other important issues.

Parallel 2: Ethics and organisational partnerships
with Alba Gómez (European Council on Foreign Relations), hosted by Ajoy Datta (On Think Tanks)

Partnerships between think tanks and other organisations are not always equitable and can create dilemmas and challenges for both sides. This may affect the overall equity of the policy research system in a country, a regional or globally. Alba will reflect on how organisational partnerships, following certain principles and guidelines, could be more ethical.

Parallel 3: Ethics in reporting the work of think tanks
with Laura Zommer (Chequeado), hosted by Keith Burnet (Chatham House)

We have made huge improvements in financial transparency. But more needs to be done in other forms of transparency. This involves how think tanks, thinktankers and their work are presented in the media. Laura will reflect on how media organisations should do it – ethically.

18:30 – 19:00
Closing remarks with keynote listeners

Keynote listeners, including: Janis Emmanouilidis (EPC), G Gurucharan (PAC India), Pamela M. Nakamba (ZIPPAR), Sarah Lucas (Hewlett Foundation), Regine Wehner (Bosch Foundation)

Day 2: 11 November
Sessions organised by partner organisations

14:00 – 15:00
Cracks in the knowledge system: whose knowledge counts and whose knowledge do we need?, hosted by INASP

Panelists: Prof Maha Bali (American University in Cairo), Dr. Joy Kiiru (Mawaso Institute and University of Nairobi)
Host: Jon Harle (INASP Director of Programmes), and Chalani Ranwala (Verité Research)

This session will bring together an expert panel, representing a range of sector perspectives, to reflect on some of the key issues outlined in this paper (In)equitable knowledge systems: before, during and beyond a pandemic

Many of the inequities which COVID-19 has exposed – and exacerbated – have been with us for a long time.  COVID has shown us once again the processes of exclusion that are baked into the ways in which we produce, communicate and use knowledge.

These are questions of infrastructure – who can study and work and be part of the many discussions taking place? – but also of voice – whose ideas and knowledge are valued, and how is that legitimated by our methodologies, practices and our tools of assessment?

Some of the issues we will discuss include:

  • Whose knowledge counts and what types of evidence are valued?
  • How inequitable is our access to digital infrastructure and tools?
  • Who is able – or enabled – to produce knowledge, or to continue work and study?
  • How can we use  evidence more equitably, as well as more effectively?
  • How can we further unsettle the dominance of Northern expertise and systems?

Join us for a lively discussion on how to “build back better”, and what we can do to achieve more equitable knowledge ecosystems.

15:00 – 16:00
Roundtable discussion: Narrative power & research, hosted by Oxfam and On Think Tanks

Speakers: Krizna Gomez (co-author of Be the Narrative), Enrique Mendizabal (On Think Tanks), Sophia Hernández (Ford Foundation)
Hosts: Caroline Cassidy (On Think Tanks) and Isabel Crabtree-Condor (Oxfam)

What’s the  role of research, researchers and think tanks in contributing to narrative change? This session will discuss key themes from the ‘Narrative Power and Collective Action’ publication (part 1 and part 2). We will discuss the role of narratives in the work of think tanks, along with the role of think tanks in shaping or reinforcing narratives.

15:30 – 16:30
Academic session. Think tank ecosystems: characteristics, functions, and implications, hosted by the On Think Tanks Research team

Presenters: Silvia Menegazzi, PhD (Adjunct Professor International Relations, LUISS Guido Carli University), Dr. Bert Fraussen and Dr. Valérie Pattyn (Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs, Leiden University)
Moderator: Andrea Baertl (On Think Tanks)

The session will explore two different think tank ecosystems, China and Belgium, and how the context shapes and influences the work of think tanks within them. Fraussen and Pattyn focus on the case of Belgium (a consensus oriented country) and examine how think tanks try to stand out in a crowded landscape, and how they distinguish themselves from other actors who also provide policy advice, such as interest groups and think tanks affiliated with political parties. Menegazzi focuses on how the think tank landscape has evolved in China in the last decade and shows how they have been able to secure a special niche with regard to foreign policy and diplomacy, notwithstanding China’s authoritarian political environment. The authors will then discuss more generally how the characteristics of these countries shape  think tanks and the larger implications of this.

16:00 – 17:00
Data Detox Kit, hosted by Tactical Tech

The information ecosystem can be perplexing and complicated. As the misinfodemic spreads, let’s talk about why the term ‘fake news’ can be misleading. This online workshop will dive deeply into the definitions of misinformation and disinformation; using real world examples to explore the difference between the two; and equipping its participants with digital investigation tools to stop the spread of complicated information.

16:00 – 17:00
The era of the think tank: An analysis of the German think tank landscape in foreign and security policy, hosted by Robert Bosch Stiftung

Speakers: Annalena Rehkämper (Phineo), Enrique Mendizabal (On Think Tanks)
Moderator: Verena Heinzel (Robert Bosch Stiftung)

The German think tank landscape has become larger and more diverse in recent years. The two foundations Robert Bosch Stiftung and Stiftung Mercator, both funders of think tanks, initiated a reflective discussion about the role, work, impact, funding and structure of think tanks that was recently published in form of a comprehensive report. This analysis is a basis for such a discussion and the first comprehensive overview of foreign and security policy think tanks in Germany. It highlights those deficits and weaknesses that still exist, and offers action recommendations designed to increase impact; these are directed at the think tanks themselves and their funders, as well as at those in politics and government who use their services.

The session will include a presentation of the report’s main findings and a discussion on the lessons that can be drawn from it for the international think tank scene.

17:00 – 18:00
Defining a think tank model of storytelling, hosted by Cast from Clay

Speakers: Aidan Muller and Katy Murray (Cast from Clay), Lizzie Harvey (Theos think tank)

In the age of social media, facts are in crisis. But policy-making is not just about facts — it is also about how they interact with the political environment. This session, run by Aidan Muller and Katy Murray from Cast From Clay, will seek to look beyond fact-based communications. It will define the terms of engagement, and explore what a viable model of storytelling might look like for think tanks. Aidan and Katy will be joined by Lizzie Harvey, who will talk about some of the storytelling work she has done at Theos think tank.

18:30 – 19:30
Secrets of digital content for policy engagement, hosted by Soapbox

Speakers: Jennifer Trent Staves (Wellcome Trust), Paul Franz (CSIS iDeas Lab), Clair Grant-Salmon (IIED)
Host: John Schwartz (Soapbox)

Think tanks have long wrestled with the puzzle of how to use timely and compelling digital content to build their brands and drive engagement. Only a few seem to have cracked the code. In this session, hosted by John Schwartz of Soapbox, Jennifer Trent Staves will divulge how the Wellcome Trust’s editorial strategy transformed the organisation’s digital presence; Paul Franz will reveal how CSIS’s iDeas Lab works alongside researchers to create compelling online experiences; and Clair Grant-Salmon will spill the beans on how IIED uses social media, newsletters and multiple digital channels to drive engagement and build policy impact.

Throughout the conference

During the online event, there will be several spaces open for participants to engage. These include:

  • Booths for partners to showcase recent work or projects
  • A networking space that randomly connects participants to each other – why not make new friends?
  • ‘Coffee rooms’ for participants to meet in smaller groups and discuss an issue of common interest
  • Chat function for the whole event which will allow participants to share resources with each other – including through direct messaging

This event is possible thanks to the support from the Hewlett Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, Mercator Stiftung, the Robert Bosch Stiftung, Universidad del Pacífico, and Soapbox.

How to register?

Click on Book Event below.