Social movements and think tanks

Supported by  Open Society Foundations,

Project brief

The Open Society Foundations (OSF) and On Think Tanks (OTT) are exploring how they can best support partnerships between think tanks and social/popular movements.

To inform this, OTT are exploring the nature of think tanks-social movement collaborations and how external actors, if at all, have intervened to support them.

We are asking the following questions:

  • Are there examples of policy research organisations working with social movements?
  • If so, why do they work together? And what does each bring to the relationship?
  • What have they achieved together and how? What difficulties do they face
  • What are the implications for their collaboration? What is involved in these collaborations?
  • To what extent have external actors (such as funders and international organisations) played a role? If so, what? and what have been the implications on the social movement- think tank relationship

We define social movements as a network of individuals, groups and/or organisations, engaged in collective action aimed at changing something in their context: be it the internal configuration of a social group, its relationship with other groups, with the state or other institutions, or aimed at changing social, cultural or political aspects of their context. Social movements are distinct from NGOs as the former are explicitly political, promote the interests of its members and can be a source of potentially disruptive forces and energies. In addition, social movements can include organisations, while an NGO is an organisation itself.

We define think tanks broadly as organisations or groups of experts who produce knowledge to inform and/or influence policy and outcomes. These can include government research departments, university research centres, consultancies, professionalised NGOs and other sites of knowledge production and engagement.

We are exploring cases where think tanks and social movements have worked together to address social, economic or political issues primarily at the national level in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe/Balkans.

Project dates

October 2018 to March 2019

The OTT consulting team

  • Ajoy Datta
  • Andrea Baertl
  • Jordan Tchilingirian
  • Faye Sumption

Funder and funding

Funding is provided by the Open Society Foundations

Total budget: US$ 22 400

This includes reimbursables and travel expenses