Think Tanks & Civil Societies Program

“Helping to bridge the gap between knowledge and policy”

The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the International Relations Program, University of Pennsylvania conducts research on the role policy institutes play in governments and in civil societies around the world. The TTCSP 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. Often referred to as the “think tanks’ think tank,” TTCSP 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 (TTCSP) 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 TTCBC 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, TTCBC 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.

Program Objectives:

The TTCSP 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, TTCSP develops and implements strategies that will increase the capacity of think tanks so they can better serve policy makers and the general public. The TTCSP 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 US 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 TTCSP 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.