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Think tanks: definition and terminology

There has been a lot of writing on what think tanks are and what their roles in society are. The definition of the label has changed over time, as scholars and experts identify boundaries and interactions with the different fields working with or within public policy influence. Is it important to define the label? Would a precise definition be beneficial to think tanks, or is the risk of excluding non-conventional organisations too high? Is it a matter of function vs. form? Has this ongoing debate had a positive influence on the role of think tanks in society?   This series brings together articles from various experts in the field, proposing different viewpoints on the definition of think tanks and what the label means today.
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    Defining the Think Tank Label: An Ongoing Topic of Debate, Discussion and Analysis

    What is a think tank? This is a question that keeps on giving. On Think Tanks has explored the label since its foundation, incorporating different analytical approaches, histories, and cases to shed light into the boundaries of this particular type of organisation. This series presents a critical reading list into the definition of think tanks. Read full article
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    on the definition of think tanks

    I have yet to be able to get through a presentation or debate about think tanks without the issue of their definition getting in the way of what would have otherwise been a thoroughly interesting discussion. The common definition describes them as a distinctive class of organisations... Read full article
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    On the origin of think tanks -newspapers

    Back in 1790, a group of Peruvian intellectuals founded the 'Sociedad Académica de Amantes del País'; an academic society that followed in the footsteps of Spanish Royal Economic Societies like 'La Bascongada' (1765). In Peru, the Sociedad initially involved informal meetings and... Read full article
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    “What the heck is a think tank, anyway?” asks an intern

    Think tanks always seemed like rather mysterious entities to me. I imagined them as places, over there in the Capital, where men with big brains and suits cooked up solutions to problems that I couldn't even begin to understand. More than once my friends have asked, jokingly, “So, like, are... Read full article
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    Playing to the Gallery (and the uses of typologies)

    Some think tanks, like artists, prefer to be recognised only by their peers. They do not care much for recognition beyond their own industries and even look down on colleagues that do. This slightly light-hearted typology of think tanks may help them think about their place in their societies. Read full article
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    The Think Tank Scholar: Tom Medvetz

    Tom Medvetz presents a fresh and critical view of the role that think tanks play in a democracy, and how the level of the discussion they generate can, on a deeper level, reinforce the existing structures thus supporting the status quo. To regain credibility, think tanks should have to learn how to separate the policy world from the process of intellectual production. Read full article
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    What is a think tank? Defining the boundaries of the label

    The exact definition of think tanks eludes us. With more and more organisations using the label to describe themselves, how can we decide what is and what isn't one. The Premio PODER to the best Peruvian think tanks provides an opportunity to set out the boundaries of a fluid and porous definition. One that is likely to change over time as more (or fewer) organisations assume the functions we associate with think tanks. Read full article
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    Linking research and policy: thinktankers as boundary workers

    We discussed the concept of a boundary worker in a series of posts about the often used supply-and-demand of research model for supporting research uptake. At the time, the Knowledge Sector Initiative in Indonesia had structured itself along those lines: supply of research (focusing on think... Read full article
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    Optimizers: How Hearts, Kidneys and Pareto Help Define Think Tanks

    Last Sunday a friend suggested in a conversation that the recruitment of organ donors is badly in need of a policy fix. In the US alone, more than 120.000 people are on a list waiting for an organ transplant, and it is said that of those 18 die each day. Practically everybody loses because of... Read full article
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    On the definition of think tanks: Towards a more useful discussion

    This is the presentation I gave at a recent meeting of think tanks hosted by ODI in London. It draws from other posts in this blog but, I hope, provides a stronger argument. From: Rory Steward: I do a lot of work with policymakers, but how much effect am I having? It’s like they’re... Read full article
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    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
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    Think Tank Effectiveness – An outsider view

    Neeta Krishna, Associate Professor, Father C Rodrigues Institute of Management Studies, Navi Mumbai, offers a fresh take at think tank effectiveness. She outlines a number of factors that may help describe and understand think tank effectiveness. She draws comparisons (sometimes possible, sometimes not) from the private sector offering interesting insights into how to assess think tanks value. Read full article
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    European think tanks and the European Union

    The Bureau of European Policy Advisers of the European Commission has recently published a report on the current relationship between European think tanks and the European Union, edited by Antonio Missiroli and Isabelle Ioannides. The purpose of the report is to focus on the role of think... Read full article
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    What think tanks do? A view from India

    Neeta Krishna, Associate Professor, Father C Rodrigues Institute of Management Studies, writes about the functions and main activities of think tanks. This is the second of a series of three posts written for the Aiditi project at CSTEP, which aims to capture information, anecdotes and data from various Think Tanks. Read full article
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    More on think tanks in India, what are they like?

    Clara Richards writes about think tanks in India based on a study of economic think tanks in BRICS countries. She finds an interesting and changing environment that presents both challenges and opportunities for think tanks. In light of the new President's call for more and better think tanks, how ready are they? Read full article
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    Think tanks in Latin America: what are they and what drives them?

    Think tanks are nothing new in Latin America. When, in 1790, the Sociedad Académica de Amantes del País was founded in Lima, the first think tank in the continent was also possibly established. The Sociedad became a space where colonial Peruvian intellectuals would meet to discuss and... Read full article
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    Think tanks: research findings and some common challenges

    These are my notes from a presentation for a SMERU Seminar that I gave in Jakarta, 31st May 2011. It includes some of the additional information provided by participants during the event; and I'll add a video and audio as soon as I figure out how to do it. Evidence versus Argument: What... Read full article