During the first phase of the Think Tank Initiative, we heard from a number of grantees about the importance of peer exchange and collaboration in order to learn from each other more effectively. To support this idea, TTI has initiated a number of activities.
First, TTI developed the Matching Funds mechanism which allows two or more grantees to put forward a joint proposal for a project or activity that promotes collaboration and which contributes to the achievement of the organization’s long-term objectives. In the first phase, TTI approved 37 Matching Funds proposals, including a project to support the Southern Voice on Post-MDGs network; and another project to support two Paraguayan think tanks to inform and influence the public policy debate prior to the 2013 General Election – in turn generating interest by a think tank in Bolivia to learn directly from their experience. TTI also supported five think tanks in an action research process focused on research quality within their organizations through the Organizational Capacity Building (OCB) Group. Members of this group presented at a panel in Cape Town during the Think Tank Initiative Exchange 2012, and the final pages of an OCB book are being written about the experience which is expected to hit shelves by mid-2014.
Given that TTI has focused on promoting collaboration throughout Phase 1, it is perhaps no surprise that we ourselves were eager to partner with like-minded programs in order to promote similar goals and interests. The idea to support peer exchanges between TTI’s think tanks and the Think Tank Fund’s think tanks came out of an ongoing conversation I had with Goran Buldioski . We found that we were both looking for ways to assist think tanks from different regions to identify common organizational challenges, as well as comparable policy research issues. We realised the huge potential for think tanks to learn from each other about strategies that have worked and those that have not. We wanted to see this program run through an intermediary organization that would be knowledgeable about the think tanks we support and the contexts they operate in, and capable of managing the exchange program from logistics to lessons learned.
From TTI’s side, we expect to test out this model of support as a potential modality for supporting collaboration and peer exchange not only in our final year of Phase 1 but also in Phase 2 (October 2014 – March 2019).
We also expect that participating think tank researchers will develop relationships with their counterparts in other organizations that can help them approach challenges and roadblocks in unexpected and innovative ways. We are excited to see what comes out of this initiative in the coming months.
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