Over the last twenty years, the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) 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.

Our mission is to 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. We have helped organize three very successful think tank Summits in the United States, Europe, and Latin America to meet this objective and are actively planning Summits in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

2012 G20 Think Tank Summit

Global Challenges, Increasing Responsibilities
G20 Foreign Policy Think Tank Summit
An International Conference
3-5 June 2012

In June 2012, the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV), one of the leading think tanks in Brazil and the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) co-sponsored a three-day conference at the University of Pennsylvania, the G20 Foreign Policy Think Tanks Summit.

Researchers and key officials from some of the world’s leading foreign policy think tanks participated in the conference, one of a series of TTCSP organized professional exchanges focusing on the challenges facing developing countries and emerging powers and the think tanks that serve them.

Panelists included Brazilian Ambassador to the United States Mauro Vieira; former Deputy Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the UN from Argentina Fernando Petrella; and Hideki Asari, deputy director-general of the Japan Institute of International Affairs and former minister at the Japanese Embassy in the United States.


It is a little-known fact that a group of think tanks from around the world were instrumental in the creation of the G20.  We hope to build on that tradition by bringing some of the leading think tanks in the world to Philadelphia for three days of dialogue and debate on the critical global challenges facing the G20 countries and the think tanks that serve them.

The G20′s emergence as the leading forum for international economic issues underscores a seismic shift that has taken place in the last 5 years in the global economic and political order. The rise of new powers has already begun to reshape international relations and the role G20 countries play in multi-lateral institutions and fora. Collectively, its members represent two-thirds of the world’s population and generate more than 85 percent of the global domestic product. The G20 is the only international forum in which major developed and developing nations meet as equals to discuss key economic issues. The continuing economic crisis and a host of other global issues highlight the importance of sharing the burden of and finding solutions to the world’s problems. The G20 can play a key role in forging an alliance that spans the developed and developing world.

As the policy agenda of the G20 expands beyond economic growth, trade, and job creation to include a range of political and security issues, a new space is created for think tank activity. G20 foreign policy think tanks are uniquely positioned to provide the analysis and advice necessary for G20 states to successfully adapt to their new roles and responsibilities at the regional and international levels. This is especially true where the so-called “emerging powers” are concerned.

For decades scholars have tried to define the role of think tanks in the foreign policy process. What remains undisputed is that whether creating, translating, and transforming knowledge, think tanks hold the capacity to set the policy agenda and to prioritize some topics over others, thereby playing an important role in policy design.

While definitions and explanations of the exact nature of think-tanks vary, two key conclusions permeate the literature on think tanks: first, think tanks play a part—whether large or small—in the policymaking process, be it through agenda-setting, legitimating processes, or policy formulation; and second, the role of think tanks becomes particularly relevant in moments of change or transformation and in the face of increasingly complex policy demands. We view the on-going transformation of the international environment as a moment of critical change that is generating increasingly complex demands for the so-called emerging world and the established world powers. The G20 Foreign Policy Think Tanks Summit (FPTTS) aims to understand the changing role of think tanks in a group of states with growing relevance in international affairs—the G20.

This peer-to-peer exchange will provide G20 think tanks with the opportunity to discuss a mix of organizational issues and substantive foreign policy challenges through a series of panels, presentations, and roundtable discussions in which the Chatham House Rules will apply. The foreign policy discussions will explore the national and transnational issues that will impact world politics, global governance, and international cooperation now and in the future. Specific topics include: strategies for dealing with transnational issues; the role, scope, and agenda of the G20; and the how to balance and manage the interest of a diverse set of established and emerging powers. The organizational issues will include: best practices for conducting policy oriented research, managing think tanks, and implementing effective public engagement strategies. The special challenges facing foreign policy think tanks will be discussed, along with some of the major foreign policy issues facing the G20 countries and the role foreign policy think tanks might play in addressing those issues. These issues will be explored using organization- and country-specific security and international affairs case studies to illustrate how foreign policy think tanks have overcome these challenges to become constructive and effective catalysts for ideas and action.

The overall objective of the conference is the creation of a global forum for peer-to-peer exchange on international issues, best practices for foreign policy think tanks and the establishment of enduring linkages among G20 think tanks. The organizers hope only that such a forum of the leading foreign policy think tanks globally will foster thoughtful analysis and discussions on the relevant issues faced by all of these institutions.

Social Development Case Studies

The Role of Think Tanks in Shaping Social Development Policies Around the World 


The G20 Think Tanks and Social Development Project is intended to engage think tanks, policy-makers and other stakeholders in a peer-to-peer dialogue, knowledge exchange and capacity building focused on global development policies. The project embraces and intends to help advance the objectives of global development by improving the awareness and capacity of G20 think tanks on issues related to agricultural development, water sanitation and hygiene, financial inclusion and global access to technology. Our broader objective is intended to build partnerships, across regions and sectors, for the promotion of global development especially among the countries in the southern hemisphere.

The Think Tanks and Social Development Case Studies Project is an outgrowth of a G20 Think Tank conference that was co-sponsored by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Fredrich Ebert Stiftung and the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program,University of Pennsylvania. The publication project is underwritten by a generous grant from the New Ventures Fund which is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The objective of the project is to produce 12-15 case studies that explore the role think tanks have played in shaping social development policies at the national, regional and global level. The case studies should be in one of the broad thematic areas (provided below) and must demonstrate the think tank’s impact on a policy(ies) associated with social development. The case should also be crafted in a way that illustrates how the strategy and structure of the think tank contributed to its ability to impact a specific policy issue.

In the long run we hope the activities associated with this project will contribute to:

  1. Improve the quality and quantity of resources for national and global development
  2. Promote and support the use high-quality domestic policy research to create budgets and inform policies in developing countries
  3. Strengthen the network of the policy, advocacy, and media community working  on resources for development
  4. Improve the quality and impact of global and domestic campaigns that can bring more and better resources to development
  5. Build the policy and advocacy communities in areas related to agricultural development and water, sanitation and hygiene, financial inclusion, and global libraries.

Description and Specifications of the Proposed Case Studies  

Each case study must fall in one of the thematic areas listed below and must demonstrate the think tank’s impact on a policy associated with social development. The case should also be crafted in a way that illustrates how the strategy and structure of the think tank contributed to its ability to impact a specific policy issue. The themes are as follows:

  • Challenges and opportunities for social and economic development arising from processes of globalization (relation of market and governance)
  • Social and political conditions of development strategies (industrialization, agricultural development, water sanitation and hygiene, financial inclusion global access to technology and urbanization)
  • Similarities and differences of development models among the G20 (comparison of development models)
  • Development and environmentally sustainable resource utilization(environment and resource crisis)