.
The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program recently held a forum titled “Why Think Tanks Matter” where panelists from policy institutions discussed the importance and relevance of think tanks. After finding that 95% of journals, academic articles, and articles from popular websites viewed think tanks in a negative light, the TTCSP felt the need to start a conversation as to why think tanks are a valuable source of information. The Global Go To Think Tank Index, a globally ranked index of think tanks that measures the importance of institutions, was created in order to discover what institutions policy makers, journalists, and the public go to when they need advice and information on critical issues. After gathering nominations from institutions around the globe, the TTCSP then released the index to the public. Last year over 4,677 think tanks, journalists, and policy makers from 143 countries participated in the Think Tank Index. The report was downloaded over 175 thousand times in 2015, demonstrating the impact and popularity of this annual index. However, the Global Go To Think Tank Index alone isn’t enough to demonstrate the importance of think tanks. At a recent panel, Heather Conley, Director of the Europe Program at CSIS, discussed how think tanks matter as a marketplace of new designs and a convener of ideas. By bringing together members from the private sector, civil society, experts in various fields, and historians, think tanks can offer a wide range of perspectives on a single issue. Similarly, think tanks are educators—through reports, op-eds, and commentaries, policy institutions can teach the public about critical issues from multiple perspectives. Despite these efforts, members of the public often have a difficult time digesting these reports. This has led institutions such as CSIS and the Urban Institute to work on creating interactive platforms to reflect their findings. CSIS recently released a multimedia platform known as the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative—an interactive website that visually demonstrates information and analysis of maritime security in Asia—in an effort to show policy makers and the public information about Asia in an easily readable fashion. Erika Poethig, Institute Fellow and Director of Urban Policy Initiatives at the Urban Institute discussed how the institution has created a micro simulation of urban models in order to demonstrate how certain factors—such as population growth—affect urban settings. These programs and more show how think tanks are working toward becoming accessible, understandable, and available to all. In addition to these programs, Ivo Daalder, President of the Chicago Council, examined how think tanks can bring together people to discuss issues and coordinate ideas between policy makers and the public. After proposing a policy to provide defensive lethal equipment to Ukraine, the Chicago Council’s proposal was ultimately dismissed by the White House. Despite the fact the proposal failed, members of the media and institutions began a conversation based around the issue and the policy gained widespread attention. Even when policy institutions are unsuccessful in influencing policy makers, they still have the power to shape public discourse. Think tanks can also shape racial paradigms. Spencer Overton, President of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, discussed how his institution was created to help minority leaders transition into leadership roles after the Civil Rights Movement. According to Overton, think tanks matter because “information, innovation, and collaboration are key to eliminating racial disparities.” Ultimately, think tanks matter, agreed the panelists, because they provide the information policy makers and the public need in order to create action and change the world. Through independent studies created to find unbiased evidence, think tanks can shape public discourse, disseminate information on multimedia platforms, and create policies to solve critical issues. “From every perspective, we [think tanks] add value—left, right, and center. And together, we keep policy on rails. This is why think tanks matter.”

About
Winona Roylance
:
Winona Roylance is Diplomatic Courier's Managing Editor and Special Series Editor.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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Do Think Tanks Matter Anymore?

February 16, 2016

The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program recently held a forum titled “Why Think Tanks Matter” where panelists from policy institutions discussed the importance and relevance of think tanks. After finding that 95% of journals, academic articles, and articles from popular websites viewed think tanks in a negative light, the TTCSP felt the need to start a conversation as to why think tanks are a valuable source of information. The Global Go To Think Tank Index, a globally ranked index of think tanks that measures the importance of institutions, was created in order to discover what institutions policy makers, journalists, and the public go to when they need advice and information on critical issues. After gathering nominations from institutions around the globe, the TTCSP then released the index to the public. Last year over 4,677 think tanks, journalists, and policy makers from 143 countries participated in the Think Tank Index. The report was downloaded over 175 thousand times in 2015, demonstrating the impact and popularity of this annual index. However, the Global Go To Think Tank Index alone isn’t enough to demonstrate the importance of think tanks. At a recent panel, Heather Conley, Director of the Europe Program at CSIS, discussed how think tanks matter as a marketplace of new designs and a convener of ideas. By bringing together members from the private sector, civil society, experts in various fields, and historians, think tanks can offer a wide range of perspectives on a single issue. Similarly, think tanks are educators—through reports, op-eds, and commentaries, policy institutions can teach the public about critical issues from multiple perspectives. Despite these efforts, members of the public often have a difficult time digesting these reports. This has led institutions such as CSIS and the Urban Institute to work on creating interactive platforms to reflect their findings. CSIS recently released a multimedia platform known as the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative—an interactive website that visually demonstrates information and analysis of maritime security in Asia—in an effort to show policy makers and the public information about Asia in an easily readable fashion. Erika Poethig, Institute Fellow and Director of Urban Policy Initiatives at the Urban Institute discussed how the institution has created a micro simulation of urban models in order to demonstrate how certain factors—such as population growth—affect urban settings. These programs and more show how think tanks are working toward becoming accessible, understandable, and available to all. In addition to these programs, Ivo Daalder, President of the Chicago Council, examined how think tanks can bring together people to discuss issues and coordinate ideas between policy makers and the public. After proposing a policy to provide defensive lethal equipment to Ukraine, the Chicago Council’s proposal was ultimately dismissed by the White House. Despite the fact the proposal failed, members of the media and institutions began a conversation based around the issue and the policy gained widespread attention. Even when policy institutions are unsuccessful in influencing policy makers, they still have the power to shape public discourse. Think tanks can also shape racial paradigms. Spencer Overton, President of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, discussed how his institution was created to help minority leaders transition into leadership roles after the Civil Rights Movement. According to Overton, think tanks matter because “information, innovation, and collaboration are key to eliminating racial disparities.” Ultimately, think tanks matter, agreed the panelists, because they provide the information policy makers and the public need in order to create action and change the world. Through independent studies created to find unbiased evidence, think tanks can shape public discourse, disseminate information on multimedia platforms, and create policies to solve critical issues. “From every perspective, we [think tanks] add value—left, right, and center. And together, we keep policy on rails. This is why think tanks matter.”

About
Winona Roylance
:
Winona Roylance is Diplomatic Courier's Managing Editor and Special Series Editor.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.