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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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Funding for think tanks part one: domestic funding

Funding is one of the five core themes at OTT. Through the years, we have produced a wealth of material on the topic including resources, advice, tools and capacity building opportunities. This series includes 13 posts on domestic funding, including advice for both thinktankers and funders.
  1. 1

    On think tanks and domestic funding: the series

    During discussions amongst attendants of the On Think Tanks Conference in February 2017, funding and sustainability arose as two of the main challenges facing think tanks, the latter a direct result of the former. Both of these challenges are most felt by think tanks in developing countries,... Read full article
  2. 2

    Independence, dependency, autonomy… is it all about the money?

    'XYZ is an independent think tank....' We have all read this before. Some of us have written and talk about it when describing the think tanks we work (or worked) for. And in the last three months think tanks all over the world have said this to me -as a matter of fact. But what do we really... Read full article
  3. 3

    Ideas for the next Head of the Think Tank Initiative (and other think tank funds), if I may

    In a few months, a new Head of the Think Tank Initiative will take on the responsibility of leading a new phase of a programme (see the second annual report) that has the potential of not only changing the fortunes of its grantees but also the way in which international development (and... Read full article
  4. 4

    What happens when foreign donors leave (and they will)? Domestic funders wanted

    Foreign funding for think tanks has raised a few eyebrows lately. There is an increasing concern that this involves meddling with domestic politics. In developing countries this comes alongside an already very drying up of foreign funds for research. Domestic funders, especially corporations, foundations and individual philanthropists will have to step in to pick up the bill. Think tanks, however, will have to rethink how they raise funds and work if they want to tap into this opportunity. Read full article
  5. 5

    Sandra Polonia Rios on Brazilian funding models

    As I wrote in my previous post, my first job in the development industry (or should I say public policy industry?) was in CIPPEC (Argentina) raising funds from individuals. Our team had one person dedicated to corporate fundraising, another one for international cooperation and me,... Read full article
  6. 6

    Domestic think tank funding: what can foreign donors do?

    Domestic funding is the only sustainable option for think tanks in developing countries. But getting there, moving away from a dependence on foreign funding, will take time and lots of innovation. Foreign funders have a responsibility to explore different options and encourage their grantees to try them out. Read full article
  7. 7

    Undue influence: what is it, how is it exerted, and how to address it in the future?

    Extra, extra, think tanks are funded by foreign governments! This may have come as a shock to the readers of the New York Times but its an every day affair for think tanks in the developing world. This blog provides an overview of some of the mechanisms through which foreign funders fund think tanks in developing countries. Some pose significant challenges to their credibility and independence. Looking forward, a balance of foreign versus domestic funding will have to change. Read full article
  8. 8

    Scenarios for the future of think tank support initiatives

    The move towards long term institutional support for think tanks has led to great improvements in their capacity. There are already a number of stories of success coming from initiatives like the TTI and KSI. But what will happen when they come to an end? Will they? How could these initiatives look like in the future and how could thinking about these scenarios today help them to achieve their objectives? Read full article
  9. 9

    Mobilising domestic funding for think tanks in developing countries: a way forward

    One of the topics that concerned the participants of the First On Think Tanks Conference in February 2017 was think tanks financial sustainability. One of the challenge sessions held focused on the question of how to mobilise domestic funding (from a range of sources) to compensate for the... Read full article
  10. 10

    Strategy is a fundraising necessity, not a luxury

    In 1789, Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, famously wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Think tank directors could be forgiven for expressing a similar sentiment about “death and short-term project funding”... Read full article
  11. 11

    Fund like a “Secret Dragon”: some ideas on how to support think tanks

    Think tank funding comes in many guises: large untied funds offered to think tanks to do whatever they want; short or mid term institutional funding to support certain core investments that project funding does not allow for; funding for projects; etc. Funds, too, are requested and offered. More... Read full article
  12. 12

    How to fund think tanks? A few questions that may help decide

    Funding think tanks requires careful consideration of a number of variable: who is funding, who receives the funding, what is it for, and how is it delivered. Think tanks should not be funded as if they were just another organisation; nor should they all be funded the same way across the board. In this post I try to outline some of the questions (and analysis) that funders may want to consider before funding think tanks. Read full article
  13. 13

    Supporting think tanks series: synthesis of the think pieces – context related lessons

    A year ago, On Think Tanks commissioned a series of think pieces on supporting think tanks for the evaluation of a pilot for the Knowledge Sector Initiative in Indonesia. This post outlines a number of lessons related to the challenges that the context places on think tanks - donor relationships. The think pieces identify at least six key aspects of the context that should appear high in any assessment of think tank support efforts: culture; politics; the labour market; information availability; donor–grantee relationships; and donor/grantee interests. Read full article
We update our series regularly, so make sure to check them out as they evolve.
  1. 14

    ‘Tourist’ funders are unhelpful when supporting and evaluating think tanks

    I've been in Peru for the last couple of weeks working on several projects related to think tanks: helping to establish a think tank focused on forestry based on a series of blogs I wrote, organising a national think tanks award, and getting to know a bit more of the local think tank... Read full article
  2. 15

    Fundraising should be fun… but it is also a very serious matter

    Arthur Brooks has found a way of making fundraising fun at the AEI. He argues that it is the role of fundraisers to give philanthropists meaning: to connect their wealth with their convictions. This raises important questions for think tanks. They must think both about what may be politically relevant as well as what may be of interest and importance (literally and figuratively) for their funders. As think tanks in developing countries begin to look for domestic alternatives to foreign funding, these insights may be invaluable. Read full article