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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

    Reinventing the role of think tanks

    Think tanks are one of many organisations meeting the ire of a populist, illiberal backlash. In parts of Europe, they are being strangled by restrictive legislation, censorship, and smear campaigns. In other parts, where democracy is not so overtly threatened, their role as providers of... Read full article
  2. 2

    foraus global: The Tinder for foreign policy enthusiasts

    Is foreign policy sexy? If one would ask this question in a survey in Switzerland, the vast majority would most probably answer with a clear “No”. The response wouldn’t be any different asking people if the foreign policy of their country is democratically legitimated. Nevertheless, in... Read full article
  3. 3

    Developing a portfolio of services: unique, repeatable, profitable and willing to pay

    If there is no core funding, think tanks rely on projects to keep going. This often is difficult work. Yet, what approaches can think tanks follow to develop a portfolio of services (i.e. a range of activities that contribute to funding the organization)? Although context will differ, I... Read full article
  4. 4

    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
  5. 5

    Think Tanks and Tax Status: A note on the 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 Tax Categories

    In order to understand the activities of US non-governmental organizations, it is helpful to take a look at the US tax code. The tax status of a non-governmental organization helps to define its character. This is because this status defines legal parameters and creates public... Read full article
  6. 6

    Think tank business models: Are think tanks a distinctive organisation type?

    This second post on business models continues the exploration of the conceptual terrain, this time by developing a series of points about the ‘type’ of organisation that a think tank represents along a spectrum of organisations. Read full article
  7. 7

    Think tank business models: The business of academia and politics

    In the first of two blog postings, I broadly map out the chief operational urgencies that think tanks/policy research institutes encounter in their efforts to shape political and policy discourses using informed analysis. Since this series is largely an exploration of a set of key... Read full article
  8. 8

    The deliberative think tank: a function or an entirely new model?

    Think tanks across the world face a number of challenges. Among them, their traditional audiences, policymakers, are increasingly aware that they cannot deal in facts alone. For all the talk about evidence based or evidence informed policy, policy has to take values into account. Often more... Read full article
  9. 9

    Organisational Development: more of an art than a science?

    Think tank managers are often thinking about how they might change or improve their organisation by bringing in the help of a consultant with expertise in Organisational Development (OD). But is this always the best solution? In this article I discuss a number of assumptions about organisational... Read full article
  10. 10

    Unravelling the business models of think tanks in Latin America and Indonesia

    The business model is an essential part of think tanks sustainability. In this post Ashari Cahyo Edi and Leandro Echt, outline a research project aimed at understanding what are the key aspects that characterise effective business models in think tanks in Indonesia and Latin America. Read full article
  11. 11

    Managing budgets in a Think Tank

    Eva Cardoso, an experienced think tank administrator writes about managing budgets for think tanks. She uses the project cycle to describe the various stages of budget design, monitoring and closure. She also outlines the different roles and skills that are necessary for an adequate budget management. Finally, she presents useful templates for think tanks to use. Read full article
  12. 12

    An on the record discussion about think tanks (también en castellano)

    José Luis Chicoma, Executive Director of Ethos Public Policy Lab, reflects on a recent gathering of Latin American think tanks. He puts forward 'a theory of the evolution of think tanks' that leads to the formation of much more politically engaged organisations, working closely with grassroots and other actors that hitherto, think tanks have not been known for working closely with. Read full article
  13. 13

    The art of creating time: invest, don’t spend

    Are some organisations too successful for their own good? How can think tanks take a brake from donor led project funding to develop their own agendas and take the initiative on the projects that they pursue? In this post, Enrique Mendizabal offers some advice based on his own experience. He argues that think tanks must change the way they think about the way the spend their profits: think investment, not expenses. Read full article
  14. 14

    A workmance: Executive Directors and their Heads of Research or Policy

    On my way to a meeting of Latin American think tanks in Guatemala (to launch ILAIPP and learn about social inclusion) I picked up the airline's magazine and found a very interesting article about the relationship between CEOs and their Creative Directors (of relevant companies). (If you are... Read full article
  15. 15

    New offices for CGD: food for thought

    You may or may not be surprised, based on how much you follow this blog, by my choice of a quote from Lawrence MacDonald's post on CGD's move: While we will increase our floor space by half, to 33,000 sq. ft., we won’t be much bigger in terms of the number of offices (about 30) or open-space... Read full article
  16. 16

    For-profit think tanks and implications for funders

    Last week I visited a few think tanks in Hungary and Slovakia. The Think Tank Fund hosted a few think tankers from around the world for a meeting and took Ben Davies from AusAID's KSI and myself to visit a few of their grantees. The visits and the conversations with the think tanks have... Read full article
  17. 17

    Educate the public: a forgotten function for think tanks?

    Donors and think tanks in the developing world are busy trying to find ways to measure their contribution to policy changes. Some are even going as far as claiming a direct role in the well-being changes observed in the populations targeted that by the policies they helped to inform. But a... Read full article
  18. 18

    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
  19. 19

    Carnival Month: Dancing like Brazilian think tanks

    I have always had a special interest in Brazil and its people. I really admire their spirit and particular way of seeing the world and celebrating life with their carnaval. I was lucky to study in Brasilia at one of the best universities in international relations, Universidade de Brasilia.... Read full article
  20. 20

    Bigger roles for Chinese think tanks

    Hu Yongii of China Daily has written an article on how the period of transition that the Chinese government is currently undergoing has expanded Chinese think tanks' role, by being more frequently consulted by government officials and agencies. Think tanks offer advice on their specialty... Read full article
  21. 21

    Can Consultancies Sustain a Long-Term Research Strategy in Developing Countries?

    The mushrooming of consultancy firms and NGOs drawing on a large number of social scientists amounts to an internal brain drain, which is no less problematic than the external brain drain, even if it is less talked about. Mweru, 2010 In Bolivia, as in most other developing countries,... Read full article
  22. 22

    Nicolás Ducoté, Executive Director at CIPPEC (Part 1 of 2)

    This is the first part of a two-part  interview Nicolás Ducoté (CIPPEC’s co-founder and former Executive Director and General Director). Continuing our effort to keep the knowledge and experience within the organization and to share that experience with other think tanks through our... Read full article
  23. 23

    New trends for Chinese Think Tanks

    China has had a long tradition of think tanks serving as policy researchers and governmental advisors. Currently, according to Xufeng Zhu, Director of the Centre of Chinese Policy Science, and Associate Director of the Centre for MPA Education, Nankai University, there seems to be a new trend... Read full article
  24. 24

    Digital think tanks

    I have been asked to present and facilitate a session on digital think tanks at the Think Tank Initiative's global exchange in Cape Town next week. Nick Scott, Peter da Costa and Vaqar Ahmed will be co-facilitating. We will all try to write about our session and share our experience with you... Read full article
  25. 25

    The think tank hub: a new model for supporting think tanks

    I would like to propose a new model for funding and supporting new think tanks in developing countries: the think tank hub. In developing this model I have been inspired by a number of ideas and experiences. Think nets I have written about think nets in the past. Stephen Yeo presented the... Read full article
  26. 26

    Is the idea of think tanks devalued? Tevy Troy thinks so

    I am not so sure. As in most things, the idea is not necessarily the reality. Think tanks are a good idea but they are limited by a great deal of factors. The policy and political contexts in which they are set up the develop can greatly affect what they can and cannot do. Think tanks set up in... Read full article
  27. 27

    The Church and think tanks

    What is it about the Church and think tanks? The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection caught my attention this year with its innovative use of evidence and religion. But other cases exist where the Church has played an important role in the formation and development of think tanks. In... Read full article
  28. 28

    Is religion a ‘no no’ for think tanks?

    The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) is a very interesting think tank. It does not just talk about evidence but also about faith. Its mission statement is: To foster from a faith-inspired perspective a critical understanding of current issues. Guided by the Church's Social... Read full article
  29. 29

    A new think tank model: a focus on productive sectors

    A few posts ago I wrote about the idea of setting up think tanks around natural resources (although the idea is perfectly valid for any productive sector). Think tanks can be a great engine of change. They can take on the interests of the industry and the wider public and pursue policy... Read full article
  30. 30

    Got resources? Think tank them

    The natural resources curse is well-known by now. Countries with lots of mineral (or almost any other natural resource) wealth often find themselves cruising down the roads of corruption, violence and underdevelopment. It is as if they were dismissing all the warnings on the side of the road:... Read full article
  31. 31

    Is everything from the ‘North’ bad for the ‘South’?

    Ajoy Datta's recent blog post asks if developing country think tanks may ever be able to escape their US heritage. He provides some very interesting insights into the research being undertaken by RAPID on think tanks (that I kick started while I was working there) now being led by him. As my... Read full article
  32. 32

    Different ways to define and describe think tanks

    As I have mentioned before, I am working on a book on think tanks in developing countries -the focus is changing towards the analysis of think tanks influence, though. This first stage has me working on a literature review and, as promised, here as some ideas that I'd like to share with... Read full article
  33. 33

    on the business model and how this affects what think tanks do

    Before defining the approaches they will employ to to being about research based policy influnce, think tanks need to ask themselves is: 'what kind of organisation are we?' According to recent work by ODI in Latin America –and drawing form the literature on think tanks- we could argue... Read full article