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On Think Tanks was founded in mid 2010. It has evolved from a blog into a global platform dedicated to study and support policy research and policy research centres, or think tanks. The members of the On Think Tanks Team and its Advisory Board are spread out across 6 continents!

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On Think Tanks is mindful of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on think tanks. We wish to support think tanks globally to weather the COVID-19 storm. Our COVID-19 initiative is based on our four core pillars of work: generating knowledge, learning, convening, and sharing content and resources. This series will collect all our articles on COVID-19 and crisis more generally.
  1. 1

    Times of crisis: what can think tanks and their funders do?

    Times of crisis present critical reflection points for think tanks and think tank communities. From the Great Depression to 9/11 in the US, from the 1973 coup to the 1990s return to democracy in Chile, and from the Second World War to the recent financial crisis and Brexit in the UK – the... Read full article
  2. 2

    Avoiding the asteroid: being constructive and relevant in the pandemic

    COVID-19 could become to many think tanks what the asteroid was to dinosaurs: an extinction level event. It’s likely that sector funding will decrease sharply, both within countries and from foreign donors in developing-country contexts, while other pressing causes take precedence. Moreover,... Read full article
  3. 3

    How think tanks can support the COVID-19 response through survey data

    COVID-19 is likely to be the largest challenge the world has faced since the Second World War. In the last two weeks, unemployment claims in the US have exceeded the highest number recorded during the great recession. And the virus is expanding at an exponential rate. While some governments have... Read full article
  4. 4

    13 examples of how think tanks and research institutions are responding to the pandemic

    As I’ve been reading through the On Think Tanks Twitter feed and articles, I’ve been amazed by the speed and range of think tank and research response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And with the crisis impacting nearly every policy area, there’s plenty of opportunity for think tanks to make... Read full article
  5. 5

    How the research of Southern Voice think tanks is responding to COVID-19

    At Southern Voice, we have been discussing internally ways in which we can engage our network to get a broad range of insights on the crisis from across the Global South. As a first step, we have been tracking how our members are managing a transition to lock-down and remote working. For... Read full article
  6. 6

    Going digital – What we have learnt about online learning approaches

    Over recent weeks a huge number of face-to-face conferences, workshops and training events have been cancelled or postponed. This has massive implications for the important efforts to support and strengthen research for development, which are vital in tackling the current world crisis and... Read full article
  7. 7

    Foundations’ early international responses to COVID-19

    Think tanks and non-profits worldwide are facing greater financial needs in the face of the COVID-19. Over 67% of organisations surveyed by CAF America reported decreased funding or difficulties reaching donors since the pandemic began. Devex recently wrote about some of the large funding... Read full article
  8. 8

    How COVID-19 is affecting funding, and what think tanks and donors can do about it

    Many large donors have responded to the COVID-19 crisis by introducing new funds to support COVID-19 related research or sought to make existing funding more flexible. Initial findings from our survey of think tanks has identified both these actions as a great help for many. However, as think... Read full article
  9. 9

    The future of think tanks in a post-Covid-19 world: Looking to (social) science for the answers

    . Social science and the humanities have long held important places in modern society for the insights, stimulation and escapism that they can provide in the best times and, indeed, in the worst. Whilst medical science continues to dominate the news as national governments seek solutions to the... Read full article
  10. 10

    Think tanks can lead the way in rethinking charitable sector models in response to COVID-19

    Charitable giving around the globe is set to face a massive decline unless civil society snaps into action. In Canada alone, deficits within the charitable sector are set to reach anywhere between $9.5 billion and $15.7 billion, while as many as 194,000 workers may be laid off. Only time will... Read full article
  11. 11

    Mute your mics please! Communications in the time of COVID-19

    I find it strange that I heard about the Government’s curfew announcement while presenting my think tank’s communications strategy on a conference call in my living room, almost three months ago. All things considered, the transition from doing comms in an office to doing comms at home has... Read full article
  12. 12

    An innovative communications strategy to face the COVID-19 ‘infodemic’

    The outbreak of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, has caused two pandemics: COVID-19, and the proliferation of misinformation about this virus, a phenomenon called ‘infodemic’. The latter travels and spreads much faster than the first, taking over the screens of televisions, computers,... Read full article
  13. 13

    High hopes: think tank communications in times of COVID-19

    The world changed this spring. And we are all watching it unfold, grieving for the people who lost their lives and hoping that the looming economic crisis won’t be as bad as expected. It’s hard, scary and strange to face this uncertainty. But we can’t let it paralyse us. We... Read full article
  14. 14

    Responding to COVID-19 and its spill over effects

    COVID-19 has changed the world, transforming the way we look at ourselves, and the ways in which we relate to our work, communities and societies. In sum, it has also compelled us to reassess organisational priorities. Those that are nimble footed will recalibrate their strategies and cope... Read full article
  15. 15

    What we’ve learned about engaging with volunteers in times of crisis

    Volunteers are at the heart of foraus. Our think tank is based on a unique grassroots model with over 120 volunteers in an official role who share a common goal: to contribute actively to Swiss foreign policy through science-based policy recommendations published in discussion papers, policy... Read full article
  16. 16

    Innovating on public communications during the COVID-19 pandemic

    On 25 March, India sealed its borders and implemented a country-wide lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Nobody in our 30-person team could have predicted the immediate disruption that the pandemic and the lockdown brought with it, much less the opportunity to innovate on... Read full article
  17. 17

    One key to the crisis: flexibility

    Three months of running a think tank from my home office amid a global pandemic and mass protests has taught me a simple, paradoxical lesson: for a think tank to remain stable in a crisis it needs to show flexibility itself and ask for it from its supporters. Let me offer some background... Read full article
  18. 18

    The impact of COVID-19 on CRES in Senegal

    On the surface, it may appear that CRES hasn’t been affected: everyday colleagues continue to work hard to inform decision-making, juggling work and family commitments. But crisis management is a challenge within CRES, just as it is within the government. The pandemic was a surprise and is... Read full article
  19. 19

    Adapting to the pandemic with a human touch

    The present pandemic has possibly been one of the most disruptive events in our lives, both professionally and personally. It has dislodged us from our comfort zones and challenged us to find novel ways to work, collaborate, and interact. Like everybody else, the Human Resources (HR) team at the... Read full article
  20. 20

    Did COVID-19 change think tanks’ annual staff assessments?

    Two recent developments may be having significant effects on the way think tanks are structuring their staff assessments. First, is the simplification of elaborate systems with more streamlined ones that emphasise more frequent, less formal feedback and discussions partially or fully taking... Read full article
  21. 21

    Think tanks in times of crisis. Prepare. Prod. Promote. Pitch. Produce.

    . Another blog, another mnemonic. I know. Sorry. But it helps me to remember, and may help others. The topic here is what changes for the policy role of think tanks at a time of crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic is the current example, but there have been previous ones, for example the Global... Read full article
  22. 22

    Why COVID-19 and political instability could be an opportunity for think tank funding in Italy

    When the 2008 economic-financial crisis hit, few think tank professionals in Europe were worried, convinced that their well-established funding model would survive the shock. And they were right, for a while. It took 3-4 years for the effects to reach the ‘thinking’ community. First... Read full article
  23. 23

    COVID-19 and research systems: An urgent need for fresh thinking in the Global South

    It’s spring 2020 in Myanmar and the global pandemic has begun. The international organisations that 'dominate' the Mynamese research policy field are operating at minimum capacity, as staff repatriate in the face of the pandemic. Mynamese think tanks and local researchers are pushed to the... Read full article
  24. 24

    COVID-19: an asteroid or window of opportunity? The case of Serbian think tanks

    Well, I guess I wouldn't be wrong in saying that working in the Balkans is a synonym for dealing with perpetual crisis. Thus when a worldwide crisis hits, you are kind of prepared: relying on your accumulated know-how, adjusting your strategies and pulling out your secret policy weapons. So,... Read full article
  25. 25

    Challenges for think tanks in the era of the ‘new normal’

    The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to face problems that we did not know existed, and to adapt to the implications of a new reality. In the professional space, even governments have faced challenges; for example, large numbers of staff (drivers, messengers, and others) cannot possibly carry... Read full article