Collaborative Projects: A comparative study of business models for think tanks in Indonesia and Latin America

27 March 2015
SERIES About The On Think Tanks Exchange

The Business Models study is the third collaborative project supported by The Exchange.

Although “doing business” is one of the main preoccupations of think tanks, it is difficult to find any systematic studies of what makes a particular business model successful in a particular context. This collaborative study focuses on think tanks and their business models in Indonesia and Latin America. The project seeks to understand which models have proven to be most successful in these contexts. The hope is that these insights can be generalised so as to useful to think tanks (and donors) working in other developing countries.

The project was launched a little later than the other two collaborations, but is catching up quickly.

In January and February the team (Hari and Leandro) worked on identifying the dimensions of business models that seem to be most important for the think tanks they will study: their value proposition, financial management, core business activities, governance, leadership, staffing and funding management.

  • The next step was deciding how to approach each of these dimensions, which involved posing key questions, designing data collection tools (i.e. the questions to be raised in the interviews with the staff of the think tanks).
  • The second major step was to identify the “cases” to be studied (i.e. the think tanks to be analysed) and define a structure for the case studies. Three think tanks in ILAIPP (a network of Latin American think tanks) expressed their willingness to be part of the study: CADEP (Paraguay), Grupo FARO (Ecuador) and Fundación ARU (Bolivia). Three cases were also defined for Indonesia: SMERU Research InstituteIRE, and the Jawa Pos for Pro-Otonomi Institute.

What comes next? The team members have held preliminary conversations with the leaders of each think tank in order to explain how the team will gather the data it needs. The next step is to digest the background information for each think and then to interview the key personnel.

But before this, the team will present its plans to the other members of the Exchange in Quito at the beginning of April.