Bridging the gap between knowledge and policy
There are 6,826 think tanks around the world completing exceptional work to help bridge the gap between knowledge and policy. There are 96 think tanks in Canada
- There are 1931 think tanks in North America, – Mexico, Canada and US, – of which 1835 are in the United States
- There are 1770 think tanks in Europe
- Close to 55 percent of all think tanks are in North America and Europe
- 90.5 percent of think tanks were created since 1951
- The number of think tanks in the US has more than doubled since 1980
- 31 percent of think tanks were created between 1981 to 1990
- The End of Post WWII consensus & Challenge to the Welfare State contributed to the
- growth of think tanks on the left and the right of the political spectrum
- Most of the think tanks that have come into existence in the United States since the 1970s are specialized for a particular regional or functional area
- About one quarter of U.S. think tanks, – approximately 400 institutions, – are located in
- More than half the think tanks are university affiliated
- The rate of establishment of think tanks has declined over the last 12 years in the United
States and Europe
The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program
“Helping to bridge the gap between knowledge and policy”
- Researching the trends and challenges facing think tanks, policymakers, and policy oriented
civil society groups
- Sustaining, strengthening, and building capacity for think tanks around the world
- Maintaining the largest, most comprehensive database of over 6,000 think tanks
The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the Lauder Institute of the University of Pennsylvania conducts research on the role policy institutes play in governments and in civil societies around the world. The Program was established in 1989 at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia and moved to the IR Program at the University of Pennsylvania in 2008. The Program recently moved to the Lauder Institute, Wharton School and School of Arts and Sciences of the University of Pennsylvania. Often referred to as the “think tanks’ think tank,”
The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program examines the evolving role and character of public policy research organizations. Over the last 20 years, the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program has laid the foundation for a global initiative that will help bridge the gap between knowledge and policy in critical policy areas such as international peace and security, globalization and governance, international economics, environment, information and society, poverty alleviation, and health.
This international collaborative effort is designed to establish regional and international networks of policy institutes and communities that will improve policy making as well as strengthen democratic institutions and civil societies around the world. The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the International Relations Program works with leading scholars and practitioners from think tanks and universities in a variety of collaborative efforts and programs.
Research on Think Tanks and Civil Societies
The center conducts research on the role of think tanks in the policy making process and as key civil society in countries around the world.
Think Tank Capacity Building Program
The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program conducts research and provides technical assistance on a wide range of environmental challenges and organizational development issues facing think tanks and policy communities around the globe. In addition, the Program develops and implements strategies that will increase the capacity of think tanks so they can better serve policy makers and the general public.
Database and Directories
The Center developed the first interactive, global, comprehensive, multi-sectoral database and directory of think tanks. Most databases and the directory are organized by discipline, country or region. The Center’s database continues to be the only multi-sectoral database of think tanks, consisting of over 6500 think tanks in 179 countries around the world. Additionally, the Center has created specialized databases of think tanks in areas such as development, democracy, security, international affairs and health.
The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program collects data and conducts research on think tanks and policy communities around the globe and then disseminates the findings as widely as possible. In addition, the Program develops and implements strategies that will increase the capacity of think tanks so they can better serve policy makers and the general public. The Program works with think tanks, knowledge communities, policy makers and civil society representatives to:
- Develop strategies that will improve the performance and effectiveness of think tanks in the creation, dissemination and utilization of policy-relevant proposals and engage policy makers and civil society representatives in the policy making process.
- Create a virtual global think tank that will foster collaboration, information sharing and the transfer of innovative policies and proposals from one institution or policy community to another.
- Promote constructive dialogue and collaborative research and analysis on policy issues through the creation of global issue networks that build on existing local and regional networks wherever possible.
- Identify, test and disseminate strategies and technologies that will facilitate collaborative research and information sharing among public policy research organizations and other policy and knowledge based institutions around the world.
- Promote an ongoing interdisciplinary global dialogue among think tanks, policy makers and civil society representatives that will explore the critical role think tanks play in civil societies and how these institutions can be sustained over time.
This program is designed to identify and disseminate innovative technologies and best practices developed by think tanks both in the United States and abroad. Those technologies and strategies that have been successfully employed by institutions have been documented and shared via conferences, newsletters, the internet and manuals. Failed strategies, programs and policy initiatives have also been analyzed. Over the last 10 years, the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program has been working to help develop:
- Creative approaches to the research and analysis of policy problems.
- Effective use of knowledge and issue networks to facilitate the creation, dissemination and utilization of policy relevant information and ideas.
- Innovative strategies for engaging the press, policy makers and the public.
- Successful resource development and sustainability strategies.
- Creative approaches for recruiting, motivating and retaining key personnel for think tanks.
- Enterprising use of technologies, products and programs that increase policy impacts.
- Imaginative programs and organizational designs for think tanks.
In recent years, we have become concerned with the lack of attention that has been given to assuring the long-term vitality of these institutions. In an effort to help improve the effectiveness and sustainability of established and fledgling think tanks, the project will actively promote innovative approaches to fundraising, management, public engagement and policy analysis and research.
Ability to recruit and retain leading scholars and analysts; the level, quality, and stability of financial support; proximity and access to decision-makers and other policy elites; a staff with the ability to conduct rigorous research and produce timely and incisive analysis; institutional currency; quality and reliability of networks; and key contacts in the policy academic communities, and the media.
Reputation as a “go-to” organization by media and policy elites in the country; quantity and quality of media appearances and citations, web hits, testimony before legislative and executive bodies; briefings, official appointments, consultation by officials or departments/agencies; books sold; reports distributed; references made to research and analysis in scholarly and popular publications and attendees at conferences and seminars organized.
Number and quality of: policy proposals and ideas generated; publications produced (books, journal articles, policy briefs, etc.); news interviews conducted; briefings, conferences, and seminars organized; and staff who are nominated to advisory and government posts.
Recommendations considered or adopted by policymakers and civil society organizations; issue network centrality; advisory role to political parties, candidates, transition teams; awards granted; publication in or citation of publications in academic journals, public testimony and the media that influences the policy debate and decision-making; listserv and web site dominance; and success in challenging the conventional wisdom and standard operating procedures of bureaucrats and elected officials in the country.