How It Worked

In the developing world, independent policy research institutions – or think tanks – are in a unique position to effect positive change in their societies. By generating and analyzing credible local data, they can enhance public policy debates and promote more objective, evidence-based decision-making that makes real, sustained improvements in people’s lives.

With limited domestic sources of support at present, international donors are a key source of funding for Southern think tanks. Yet that funding is also limited, and is usually intended for specific projects. As a result, most of these think tanks have been compelled to carry out commissioned research, rather than setting an agenda that responds to local needs.

The Think Tank Initiative grew out of a desire to unlock the potential of Southern policy research institutions. We aimed to provide them with the support they needed to improve the quality of their research, the effectiveness of their organizations, and their interactions with policymakers, civil society and the media. This allowed them to increase their impact on social and economic policies in their countries and beyond. 

TTI provided two main kinds of support to participating think tanks: core funding and capacity development.

Core Funding

The defining feature of the Think Tank Initiative was its provision of core funding to participating institutions. These non-earmarked, multi-year grants helped fund both the think tank's research program and its operating costs. Provision of such stable financial support was seen as critical in giving organizations both the flexibility to adjust and be proactive to changing circumstances, and the stability to engage in sustained research on particular issues.

Capacity Development

TTI complemented core funding with a comprehensive capacity development program designed to strengthen funded think tanks in three key areas – research methods and skills, policy engagement and communications, and organizational effectiveness.


Getting Results

Strengthening policy research institutions is a long-term endeavour. That’s why the Think Tank Initiative was designed as a 10-year program, to give the think tanks the time and support they needed to increase their capacity and effectiveness.

Our long-term vision was that policymakers in participating countries consistently used objective, high quality research to develop and implement policies that led to more equitable and prosperous societies. Our specific objectives were to:

  • Support a group of promising think tanks and assist them to maintain effective strategies to improve organizational performance and monitor progress
  • Provide a combination of core funding and access to capacity development support to enable think tanks, both individually and collectively, to achieve improvements in organizational performance, research quality, and policy engagement
  • Facilitate and share learning about strategies for defining, building and managing successful, sustainable think tanks with a wide range of interested stakeholders

Our Results Framework shows how we measured our progress. Our evaluations show what we have learned and achieved over the past 10 years of programming: