Linking Think Tank Performance, Decisions, and Context

Think tanks have long held an important role in informing policies through the development of new evidence and constructive engagement with policymakers on evidence-based policy recommendations.  However, think tanks do not operate in a vacuum; the performance and influence of these institutions can be affected by context factors at the national and subnational level that are outside of the organization’s control.

In partnership with the University of Washington, Results for Development Institute has undertaken a rigorous 15-month research study to provide a better understanding of how context, think tank performance, and think tank decisions are related.  The resulting paper provides new evidence and insight into many questions that may help think tank executive directors, staff, and donors alike better assess their context and respond effectively.

Utilizing mixed methods including case studies, analysis of existing literature, survey analysis, focus group discussions, and key informant interviews, the resulting research answers the following questions:

  • What is context and how is it measured?
  • How does context affect think tanks’ decision making and policy effectiveness?
  • How do think tanks evaluate and respond to context in practice?

This research was undertaken with generous support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Think Tank Initiative (TTI).

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