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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

    Animations: A how-to guide for think tanks

    Are animations something you’ve wanted to try in your organisation for a while, but have been unsure how to approach? No two projects are ever the same, but working as an animation producer at Soapbox, a busy design studio in London, has given me insights that I wanted to write up as a... Read full article
  2. 2

    Monitoring your communications: try this

    Monitoring and evaluation – M&E, or MEL as it has come to be known, the ‘L’ standing for learning – has a bad reputation. It’s difficult. It’s boring. Pulling all the information together takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Plus, we only do it because there’s a board meeting coming up or... Read full article
  3. 3

    Four questions to assess your research communications impact

      Research can have an impact. But only if we get our research to the right people, at the right time, and in a way they can relate to.  Considering how vital communications is to development impact then, when it comes to monitoring and evaluating our work, are we doing enough to understand... Read full article
  4. 4

    Five ways to be successful in long-form: Examples to inspire think tanks and research organisations

    For us comms types, the world of digital long-form publishing feels like a veritable playground. The PDF dims in comparison to parallax scrolling, looped background videos and interactive maps. But publishing successfully in digital long-form means choosing a topic that truly suits the... Read full article
  5. 5

    Beyond the artifact: rethinking the research output

    Many interventions to increase research impact have received a lot of attention recently, including: Liberating research from PDFs; Changing the writing style from one that is targeted solely at researchers to other audiences; Using a variety of techniques to make a research output more... Read full article
  6. 6

    The role of narrative change in influencing policy

    ‘Narrative change’ seems to be a catch-phrase at present. A number of foundations – including the Open Society Foundations - have engaged in narrative change work and a number of donors have funded narrative change projects. Hardly a conversation or meeting happens without the term... Read full article
  7. 7

    Long-form: Choosing a digital platform for policy organisations

    Mike Connery was right: digital long-form for think tanks has taken off. And from the Brookings Institute to the King’s Fund, policy communicators are publishing fine examples of digital native think pieces and essays using bespoke models. But not everyone wants (or can afford) a ‘Snow... Read full article
  8. 8

    Think tanks and videos: are they an effective tool to communicate research?

    I (very) recently joined the On Think Tanks team as an editorial manager. One of my first set of tasks was to create a series about Think Tanks and Videos from content that was already on the site. The first step was obvious: a broad search and bookmarking of all relevant posts. Let me state... Read full article
  9. 9

    What does it mean to be influential? The Institute for Fiscal Studies

    Last year, Semana Económica, a Peruvian magazine, asked me to write a short article on what it meant to be an influential think tank -as part of a series of opinion pieces on their most recent power survey. This is not as straight forward as one might think. Being influential isn't a... Read full article
  10. 10

    Video for think tanks: shooting like a pro (on a shoestring)

    As On Think Tanks has argued before, events should never be produced without some kind of recording. They should always be registered, not only because it is good to keep a record of what we do as a research centre but also because of the enormous possibilities that a video gives us to share... Read full article
  11. 11

    What does the future of think tanks communications hold? A conversation with John Schwartz, Managing Director at Soapbox

    John Schwartz, Managing Director at Soapbox, talks about the future of think tank communications. He outlines three trends: digital first, the rise of narratives, and automation. All of these have important implications for think tanks and their supporters. Read full article
  12. 12

    Bill Dugan of the World Resources Institute

    Bill Dugan is WRI’s Visual Communications Manager at the World Resources Institute, USA, and also the winner of the second round of the On Think Tanks Data Visualisation competition. We discussed their inspiration and experience creating the winning piece. Visualising the Past, Present and Future of Carbon Emissions, an interactive visualisation by Bill Dugan is an innovative concept that had big impact. We spoke to Bill about his team’s inspiration for the graphic and his advice for anyone else looking to use interactive visuals to tell a story. Read full article
  13. 13

    Taking think tank communications to the next level: Determining what goes where (Part 2)

    A “commsversation” between Jeff Knezovich, Melissa Julian and the communications team at ECDPM. In this set of blog posts, we’re working to help a more centralised communications unit think through ‘what goes where’ in terms of communication outputs. The previous... Read full article
  14. 14

    Taking think tank communications to the next level: Determining what goes where (Part 1)

     A “commsversation” between Jeff Knezovich, Melissa Julian and the communications team at ECDPM. Unless a think tank is comprised of only one person, it’s unlikely (and perhaps unwise) that each person in a team has exactly the same skill set. In a similar way, various parts of a... Read full article
  15. 15

    Taking think tank communications to the next level: Becoming fit for purpose (Part 3)

    A “commsversation” between Jeff Knezovich, Melissa Julian and the communications team at ECDPM.  In conducting a strategic review of communication activities, it’s important to understand what materials one has to work with, and what one’s niche is as compared to similar... Read full article
  16. 16

    Taking think tank communications to the next level: Becoming fit for purpose (Part 2)

    A “commsversation” between Jeff Knezovich, Melissa Julian and the communications team at ECDPM.  The current set of posts is designed to help organisations to pause and reflect on their communications offer to understand if and in what ways their communication products may need... Read full article
  17. 17

    Taking think tank communications to the next level: Becoming fit for purpose (Part 1)

    A “commsversation” between Jeff Knezovich, Melissa Julian and the communications team at ECDPM In the previous blogs in the series, we touched upon the challenge of figuring out where to begin. I suggested that this can cause problems for organisations and programmes if they start... Read full article
  18. 18

    Taking think tank communications to the next level: Figuring out where to begin (Part 2)

    A “commsversation” between Jeff Knezovich, Melissa Julian and the communications team at ECDPM In the previous post, I suggested that the first step to taking communications activities to the next level is to get organised. This helps avoid  the problem of ‘running before being... Read full article
  19. 19

    Taking think tank communications to the next level: Figuring out where to begin (Part 1)

    A “commsversation” between Jeff Knezovich, Melissa Julian and the communications team at ECDPM There are a number of great tools out there for think tanks to communicate their work. Some are more costly; others are less so. Some require a certain technical skillset; others can... Read full article
  20. 20

    Taking think tank communications to the next level: A preface to a new series

    A “commsversation” between Jeff Knezovich, Melissa Julian and the communications team at ECDPM Over the next couple of months, On Think Tanks is pleased to be publishing a new weekly blog series focusing on key issues for think tanks, research institutions, and programmes of work as... Read full article
  21. 21

    It’s not me, it’s you (understanding the roles of wonk and comms in digital content creation)

    Jonathan Tanner of WonkComms has blogged about its event on research in the digital age. The event explored if there was greater convergence between the worlds of research and communication. There has always been tension between researchers and communicators. The tension between researchers... Read full article
  22. 22

    The power of the ‘package’ in communicating forestry research

    Packages are powerful. I’m talking about multimedia packages – a variety of digital media content brought together online and used to communicate a particular story. At the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), our multimedia packages have been used to inform... Read full article
  23. 23

    A monitoring and evaluation activity for all think tanks: ask what explains your reach

    Nick Scott has published an interesting post on the ODI blog: The 2012 ODI online awards – and some insights they offer into ‘success’. On Think Tanks was spared his critique of organisations and people who publish the lists of the most popular posts of the year (probably because our... Read full article
  24. 24

    ODI’s award-winning online strategy explained

    The ODI digital strategy, which I first outlined in a series of blogs for, was awarded Online Strategy of the Year 2012 at the prestigious Digital Communications Awards, held in Berlin on Friday. ODI beat off competition from over 100 multinational corporations and... Read full article
  25. 25

    More communication options and tools: semi academic journals

    Continuing with our communication options series, we have now compiled a list of semi academic journals from several known think tanks around the world. Semi academic journals are a great way of providing publishing space for think tank staff and notable academics and governmental officials,... Read full article
  26. 26

    Communication options for think tanks: channels and tools

      Somehow we always come back to the same channels and (increasingly) to some of the same tools. I have been 'collecting' some of these over the last year. And every time I get to visit or work with a think tank we get back to the same ones. Recently I have been working with a group of think... Read full article
  27. 27

    What social media and digital tools are think tanks using in their work? Views from a short clinic at the Think Tank Initiative Exchange 2012

    Alongside Enrique Mendizabal, Vaqar Ahmed and Peter Da Costa, I presented a session on digital strategy at the Think Tank Initiative Exchange 2012 in Cape Town yesterday. My presentation drew on a series of recent blogs that outlined three areas of response to digital disruption of... Read full article
  28. 28

    Policy analysis and influence: researchers or communicators?

    One of the most common concerns of many think tanks these days has to do with how to staff their communication teams. Some think tanks, under the influence of donors like DFID who are going through what could be called a self-doubting phase, are facing an even greater challenge. I think that... Read full article