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BPIR Volume 10, Issue 8: Think Tanks

The Definition

Think tanks are defined as organisations that engage in the business of public policy. They research, analyse, and produce opinions on every imaginable topic in order to advise and inform public policy makers and those who think about public policy. Think tanks operate all around the world, usually as independent, not-for-profit organisations; they tend to support themselves through their products and consultancy services, as well as through donors and sponsors. They can be affiliated with the government, political groups, interest groups or private corporations.

 

The Stage

The term “think tank” came to prominence during the Second World War, when it was used to describe a safe place where plans and strategies could be discussed. However, it was during the 1960s that it took on its current meaning relating to not-for-profit policy research organisations.

Over the last 85 years, think tanks have taken on distinct organisational forms in relation to their aspirations and objectives. Structured as permanent rather than ad hoc commissioned bodies, think tanks act as a bridge between academia and policy makers, translating and applying research and analysis to make it understandable, reliable, and accessible. Broad categories of think tanks include the social sciences, political science, economics, public administration, international affairs, and technology. Their major outputs are books, reports, policy briefs, conferences, seminars, and commentary, as well as formal briefings and informal discussions with policy makers, government officials, and key stakeholders.

Billions of dollars each year are spent to support think tanks, but just how effective are they and do they give value for money? The difficulty in measuring their effectiveness lies in determining how much influence they exert on policy-making communities and government. Though these organisations are independent, co-dependencies with their affiliates – political or otherwise – can sometimes raise questions as to the validity of their output and agenda.

Nonetheless, think tanks are powerful forces in civil society and are set to stay. The University of Pennsylvania in the United States, the acknowledged authority for think tank rankings, has a think tank registry containing more than 7,000 institutions. This number is expected to increase steadily as aspirations to influence public policy grow.

 

In This Report

1. What is a “think tank”?

2. Which organisations have received recognition for excellence by being or by having a think tank?

3. How have organisations reached high levels of success by being or by having a think tank?

4. What research has been undertaken by and into think tanks?

5. What tools and methods are used to achieve high levels of success in developing a think tank?

6. How can the effectiveness of a think tank be measured?

7. What do business leaders say about think tanks?

8. Conclusion.

TBC

 

 

 

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