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On Think Tanks | Choosing to innovate on your research agenda
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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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series

  1. 1

    Choosing to innovate on your research agenda

    In seeking to develop new policy relevant research agendas you may find yourself encouraged to think about policy problems differently. This may inspire you to innovate, but before you do, lets discuss how and when to innovate. James March has developed the notion of exploration and... Read full article
  2. 2

    Understanding policy problems and their implications in your research decisions

    In our previous articles we have covered different aspects of the design, validation and development of a research agenda. One may have broad topics and focus areas in your agenda to guide the organisation in the middle and long term, but within this agenda, how can one choose a specific... Read full article
  3. 3

    What are the principles of policy relevant research?

    As we stated in the first post of this series, our approach is based on the premise that researchers and research institutions that do good research for policymaking have a set of unique skills that distinguish them from those that do purely academic work. They have specific and deliberate... Read full article
  4. 4

    Individual and institutional research agendas: how different are they?

    Why should one discuss individual and institutional research agendas when talking about policy relevance? From my experience working at and with think tanks, we have learned that this is usually a tacit issue that, though relevant, very rarely gets the reflection and discussion... Read full article
  5. 5

    Why do we need to analyse our context to design a research agenda?

    In our previous article we introduced the seven principles for policy relevant research identified in existing literature and through practice. The first one referred to embedding the research agenda in policy context. Research agendas are not only based on think tanks’ interests or... 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

    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 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
  8. 8

    Can someone tell me what this ‘organisational development’ is really about?

    Last year, I kept hearing people talk about ‘organisational development’, throwing it around in meetings to mean all sorts of things, and no one was questioning it. And then, I was asked to write a report on organisational development for the Knowledge Sector Initiative in Indonesia.... Read full article
  9. 9

    Setting up a communications team for a Think Tank: The case of CSTEP

    When I joined the Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP) as the Head of the Communication and Policy Engagement (CPE) team, I had a fairly limited idea of what my role would entail. However, since the organisation was still young and focused on research activities, building a... Read full article
  10. 10

    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
  11. 11

    How to produce a public event

    Public events are an excellent communication and convening tool for think tanks but few use them to their full potential. This post outlines some advice on how to produce an event for impact. It argues that events can be cheap and entertaining -for speakers and audiences alike- but they have to be produced more carefully. Read full article
  12. 12

    Wonkcomms teams and skill sets: what does the future hold?

    After setting the scene on the future of think tank communications in our first event this April, the last three WonkComms events have considered the ‘why’, ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘where’ of think tank communications. This event turned its attention to ‘who’ – the... 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: 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
  15. 15

    Learning about efforts to support better links between Politics and Ideas

    It is not often that we embark in self-reflective exercises. Who has the time? Instead, we push right ahead and hope that the one thing we know how to do well is the right thing to do. It is therefore great when people make the time to reflect and share what they have learned. Nick Scott and... Read full article
  16. 16

    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
  17. 17

    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
  18. 18

    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
  19. 19

    The future of think tank communications in Peru

    On Monday 12th August, On Think Tanks and GRADE, a think tank based in Lima, held the first conference on the future of think tank communications in Latin America. The panelists were Enrique Mendizabal, of On Think Tanks; Paula Pino, a communicator at GRADE; Hans Rothgiesser, head online... 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

    Take the initiative: design your own support plans

    A few years ago I was involved in a (very big) water and sanitation project for which I had to go to Burkina Faso for a planning event. As a distraction from the workshop environment they took us to visit one of the communities where the local NGO sub-contractor had been working. About 20 or so... Read full article
  22. 22

    Authorship in research: practical tips for think tanks

    I just spent some days with a fantastic group of think-tankers, sharing some of the learning from creating the research area at Grupo FARO. Although I initially thought that the topic of authorship when it comes to research might not be as relevant to others, it ended up being that most... Read full article
  23. 23

    Research questions are not the same as policy questions

    At a planning and M&E workshop for a very interesting project managed by the South African Institute of International Studies on Global Economic Governance I came across this often forgotten challenge: research questions are not the same as policy questions. Donors always insist that they... Read full article
  24. 24

    Social media and policy change: good practice from Indonesia

    Social media has changed the way research reaches audiences by making its dissemination easier and quicker to interact with. Has it has the same impact on advocacy? The case of a social media campaign to promote the reform of criminal law in Indonesia, published on Inside Indonesia as part of... Read full article
  25. 25

    Research uptake: what is it and can it be measured?

    Over the years I have come across many definitions of what research uptake is and is not. I find the term rather confusing and limiting -like most jargon. It creates an image in my mind: of a bunch of researchers working in a dark basement and policymakers looking down on them and picking up... Read full article
  26. 26

    Communication as Organisation: Implications for Policy Research

    In this post we hope to briefly introduce new ways of thinking about communication and working with it to understand human behavior, social change and policy reform. In particular, the studies on peoples’ self-destructive organisation – as expressed in mass poisoning by pesticides,... Read full article
  27. 27

    Improving the quality of a think tank’s publications: Lessons from CIPPEC

    The Impact of a Good Publication Policy After reading Enrique’s post on quality control, I had a discussion with Dolores Arrieta, Coordinator of Communication at CIPPEC, which took us to reflect on the process CIPPEC follows to improve the quality of its production. You can also read... Read full article
  28. 28

    Supporting think tanks to develop their communication capacities: organisations not projects

    Over the last 6 months or so I have been working with four Latin American think tanks helping them to develop or strengthen their organisational communication strategies. The approach taken is based on a review of several recent experiences about which Martine Zeuthen and I wrote back in... Read full article
  29. 29

    Supporting think tanks: Advice from the think tanks themselves

    Last week I spent a few days in Jakarta participating in a conference focused on think tanks. About 50 organisations that could be categorised as (but are not necessarily) think tanks met to discuss the sector, their strengths, and challenges. Most of the event took place in Indonesian and so I... Read full article
  30. 30

    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
  31. 31

    “A policy brief is a piece of paper. It doesn’t DO anything on its own”

    Quite some time ago, Jeff Knezovich reported on a study that was due to be published: Should think tanks write policy briefs? In this post he wrote something that we should all keep in mind: A policy brief is a piece of paper. It doesn’t DO anything, and is therefore unlikely to have... Read full article
  32. 32

    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
  33. 33

    INASP’s reflections on lessons from recent research communication capacity building experiences

    This is the third in a series of posts in response to a paper that Enrique and Martine produced after evaluating a capacity building for research communication project implemented by INASP and ODI.  There have been some very thoughtful discussions about this paper on the evidence-based... Read full article
  34. 34

    Capacity development: it is time to think about new ways of generating and sharing knowledge

    I am not an expert on capacity development per se but I've been a practitioner from CIPPEC of a combination of activities during the last years in Latin America which have helped me reflect and learn on what seems more promising in terms of helping others improve the way they try to influence... Read full article
  35. 35

    Research communications support: why do donors, think tanks and consultants keep making the same mistakes?

    Building capacity to develop research communications skills and competencies for policy influence is not a new thing. There are a multitude of players involved in the process who have been working in this area for years. And evaluating that capacity development is not really a new thing... Read full article
  36. 36

    Social Media and think tanks: lessons from London Thinks

    Conversations about the use of social media bear more than a passing resemblance to teenage chat about sex –we’re all talking about it, a few of us are doing it and even fewer of us are doing it well. That’s the verdict of Cicero’s Chris Jackson which was just one of a few thought... Read full article
  37. 37

    Capacity building: straight from the lion’s mouth

    A few years ago, the BBC showed a series of programmes on 'the toughest places to be ...'. One of these shows was about the toughest place to be a midwife and it featured a midwife from the Midlands visiting Liberia to work with peers there. The differences between the British and the Liberian... Read full article
  38. 38

    Should think tanks write policy briefs? What an RCT can tell us

    There is no doubt that policy briefs are an important tool for research communications, especially for policy-oriented think tanks. A recent study from CIPPEC found that 80% of think tanks surveyed across Latin America, Africa and Asia produced some form of policy brief. ‘Yeah, but do... Read full article
  39. 39

    Responding to digital disruption of traditional communications: ‘cradle to grey content’ strategy

    At its core, all content developed by think tanks should be strongly evidence based. The Internet will not change this: if anything, the growth in competing messages makes this more important to stand out from the crowd. How then, is the Internet altering the messages think tanks deliver? In my... Read full article