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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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  1. 1

    How to create a smart project budget for think tanks

    As any project manager will tell you, a successful budget is one of the most crucial elements of any project. Your budget can bring about the overall success, or overall failure of your project. A successful project budget will not only help you run at your most efficient and effective as a... Read full article
  2. 2

    Samar Verma, Senior Program Specialist for the Think Tank Initiative (TTI) in South Asia

    Samar Verma is a Senior Program Specialist of the Think Tank Initiative (TTI) for the South Asia Region. As such, he is based at the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) office in New Delhi, India. Dr. Verma is an economist and trade specialist who has worked as a Senior Fellow for... Read full article
  3. 3

    Why do we need to analyse our context to design a research agenda?

    In our previous article we introduced the seven principles for policy relevant research identified in existing literature and through practice. The first one referred to embedding the research agenda in policy context. Research agendas are not only based on think tanks’ interests or... Read full article
  4. 4

    Think tanks and the challenges of funding in Brazil

    Think tanks, in the most general definition of the label - relatively independent and non-governmental organisations, focused on producing expertise about public policy to influence the debate on the subject - are a recent phenomenon in Brazil. Due to the successive occurrence of authoritarian... Read full article
  5. 5

    “Pay-What-It-Takes Philanthropy”: a new approach for supporting think tanks

    Free-riding among funders is more common than you'd expect. It can have a negative effect on the willingness of potential donors to engage with a think tank in the long term. It can also make life very complicated for think tanks and difficult to fulfil their missions. The call for more... Read full article
  6. 6

    It takes a village to raise funds: the role of management, trustees and donors in fundraising

    Even organisations with a strong and well-functioning fundraising unit need further involvement to succeed in raising funds. This post considers how different actors must contribute towards the same goals: senior managers, members of governance bodies (e.g. trustees, board members), and... Read full article
  7. 7

    Communications and fundraising: a close relationship

    Fundraising and communications processes are closely linked. Most of the time, we do both things at the same time: we communicate as we raise funds; we raise funds as we communicate (and probably more if we communicate effectively). For instance, what we choose to communicate to charitable... Read full article
  8. 8

    The New Philanthropists: Rohini Nilekani, Founder and Chairperson of Arghyam

    You only get what you measure. But what you may be able to measure is not what you treasure Rohini Nilejani is the founding chairperson of Arghyam, former journalist and philanthropist. She is an active supporter of think tanks in India. This interview is made up of two parts. The first is the... Read full article
  9. 9

    Creating an enabling environment for philanthropy through tax incentives

    For all the talk about how the context affects think tanks we know little about philanthropy in developing countries and its role in supporting think tanks. A recent study of tax incentives for philanthropists in Kenya offers an opportunity to reflect on the matter. Read full article
  10. 10

    Gilles Yabi from West Africa Citizen Think Tank

    Gilles Yabi, founder of West Africa Citizen Think Talk, talks about his personal and professional motivations for setting up this new think tank. The interview also discusses the main problems that countries from Francophone Africa face in formulating effective public policy, and the role think tanks can play in this process. Read full article
  11. 11

    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
  12. 12

    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
  13. 13

    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
  14. 14

    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
  15. 15

    How did leading US Think Tanks fare in 2012? Analysis by numbers

    How do think tanks develop over time? One good answer to this question are their financial statements. Annual expenditure tells us how much a think tank has grown, revenues highlight how much support it attracted, while net assets give a glimpse of financial health. To be sure, financials are... Read full article
  16. 16

    Supporting think tanks series: From core and institutional support to organizational development grants

    For a long time, core and institutional support has been considered as the holy grail of grant making by grantees and donors alike. These days, donors that provide this type of support to think tanks are far and apart. In this think piece I present, briefly, the main components of core and... Read full article
  17. 17

    ‘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
  18. 18

    Developing countries are investing in science and technology, but what about the social sciences?

    It is always heartening to read about a developing country government investing in the production of high quality knowledge and education. Chile’s recent efforts in promoting networks between its think tanks and their foreign peers focused on science and technology is certainly a model that... Read full article
  19. 19

    Charging for content: can it be done?

    This is an edited re-posting of a blog I wrote in September 2010: on charging for content. This is an updated version. Back in 2010 I wrote that: Rupert Murdoch had sent shockwaves through the publishing community with The Times' new pay-wall. Whatever people think about this,... Read full article
  20. 20

    An alternative to funding domestic think tanks: bring out the big guns

    I often write that we have to stop funding foreign researchers to helicopter over developing countries to undertake what can only, at its best, be mediocre (and irrelevant to domestic dynamics) research. This approach does not contribute to the development of sustainable and robust domestic... Read full article
  21. 21

    The woes of domestic philanthropy in developing countries

    The Idaho Stateman recently announced that retired U.S. Republican Sen. Jim DeMint has founded a conservative think tank in South Carolina. DeMint spent 13 years in the US House of Representatives and the Senate; he is now investing $300,000 from his remaining campaign money to establish the... Read full article
  22. 22

    Foreign funding and social science research in Peru

    Kelly Bay, Cecilia Perla and Richard Snyder undertook, back in 2008, a study of the way foreign funding affects social science research in Peru. Its findings are quite interesting and can also be highly illustrative of how international cooperation influences the research agenda as well as the... Read full article
  23. 23

    Priyanthi Fernando, Executive Director of CEPA (Sri Lanka)

    The interviews published by On Think Tanks and vippal on think tanks’ leaders raised the interest of ebpdn to sum up efforts in gathering more of these experiences from different regions. Nayana Godamunne from CEPA agreed to interview the Executive Director from that... Read full article
  24. 24

    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
  25. 25

    Public funds for public policy research in Latin America: a study by Lardone and Roggero

    Think tanks in Latin America are mostly dependent on private and foreign funding, while governments don’t have a policy toward funding them and the social sciences sector as a whole.  This is the conclusion that Martín Lardone and Marcos Roggero came to in Vínculos entre conocimiento y... Read full article
  26. 26

    Brookings moving into India: is this the future for the developing world?

    Both Brookings and the Carnegie Endowment have been working to move into India and set up shop there. According to the story on the Economic Times they have raised at least US$10 million. This is equivalent to the combined size of three of India's top think tanks: the Centre for Policy... Read full article
  27. 27

    Shared reserves and emergency funds: a new way of thinking about core funding

    All think tanks want core funding -they need endowment, really. And all funders want to avoid making their grantees dependent on them and them only. In the meantime, think tanks struggle to create, by the most imaginative means possible, a cushion for hard times (and this is particularly... Read full article
  28. 28

    Building the Case for Core Support

    As posted earlier in this blog, the Think Tank Initiative’s 2010-2011 annual report has just been released. This report focuses on the work of the 51 think tanks supported by the Initiative, the contexts they operate in and how they are addressing their challenges.  By working closely... Read full article
  29. 29

    A new idea: do not fund think tanks

    Here is an idea for think tank funders: do not fund them. I've been thinking of this for some time. As more and more funds are being channeled to think tanks in developing (and many least developed) countries this might come as a surprise; but I think that more funds for think tanks (and I... Read full article
  30. 30

    Mexico’s public think tanks’ network: support the system

    A few months ago I had a discussion with a colleague about how to support research and policymaking in a country without having to pick 'winners' -i.e. funding a particular think tank. Treating think tanks as part of a broader system and funding the system would be one way. And a year ago in... Read full article
  31. 31

    Whose money is it anyway? think tanks and the public: an Indian debate

    Gyaneshwar Singh commented in this blog’s Submit a Request page that during his research he found that: … there was always a question in mind that though public policy relates to the public, the public is not aware about the policy and policy process. How can public policy be brought to... Read full article
  32. 32

    Ezra Klein – Giving is personal. Make it political.

    Ezra Klein's article,  Giving is personal. Make it political, in the Washington Post on donations to think tanks (rather than service delivery charities?). The argument goes that if you donate to an organisation with the potential to influence policies the effects on the general public may be... Read full article
  33. 33

    Right Thinking, Big Grants, and Long-term Strategy

    Sally Covington's article about Conservative Philanthropies and Think Tanks is quite illustrative of the close links between think tanks and politics -and the funds that fund both. She draws some interesting lessons that are, nonetheless, relevant for all supporters or parties interested in... Read full article
  34. 34

    on charging for content

    Rupert Murdoch has sent shockwaves through the publishing community with The Times new pay-wall. Whatever people think about this, Murdoch’s decision is a response to a challenge that we, in the think tank community, share with publishers: free content costs money to produce. What are... Read full article