IDRC Think Tank Initiative

Client: IDRC

Region: Latin America, South Asia

Project value: £750 000

Lead office:  PAC UK

Description of Project:

The Think Tank Initiative (TTI) is a multi-donor program dedicated to strengthening the capacity of independent policy research organizations in the developing world. Launched in 2008 and managed by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Initiative is a partnership between five donors.
The Initiative currently provides 48 think tanks in 22 countries with core, non-earmarked funding. This support allows the institutions to attract, retain and build local talent, develop an independent research program, and invest in public outreach to ensure that research results inform and influence national and regional policy debates.
This core funding is combined with dedicated capacity development by program officers and external experts in three broad areas: research methods and skills, policy engagement and communication, and general organizational effectiveness. The Initiative also supports peer-to-peer review, learning and exchange

How it works

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 are restricted to carrying 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 organizations. We aim to provide them with the support they need to improve the quality of their research, the effectiveness of their organizations, and their interactions with policymakers, civil society and the media. This allows them to increase their impact on social and economic policies.

TTI provides two main kinds of support to participating think tanks: core funding and capacity development
The  approach to capacity development is grounded in six principles:
• Focus on impact, and contribute to practice, to create relevant experiences
• Generate sharing and participation, from and between the think tanks
• Stimulate demand for more engagement, and build habits of looking for available resources
• Demonstrate success, to accelerate change
• Design for the user, always making sure that material is understandable and coherent
• Reach the broader community, including those that are not funded by TTI


Work carried out by PAC team:

  1. Coach and manage mentors in the South Asia and Latin America region as they provide strategic support to the Think Tank organisations
  2. Develop strategy for monitoring the impact of the PEC actitiviet, reviwiong achievements and monitoring of performance of indidvula TTI-funded institutions agesnt PEC capcity development goals
  3. Plan and host regional training events and workshops
  4. Organise and facilitate virtual peer learning sessions on specific topics identified by the needs of the TTI organisations
  5. Organise and facilitate an end of year program review meeting to:
  • Share and capture learning from the program
  • Establish methods for taking forward a community of practice
  • Plan steps beyond the program to translate skills into practical change

To find out more about this project vist the Think Tank Initiative website

Video from one of the South Asia Think Tanks in the program NCAER

For more information from Practical Action Consulting UK, please contact the office:

Address: The Robbins Building, 25 Albert Street, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV21 2SD, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)1926 634403

PAC Managing Director: Greg Beeton

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