Friday 4 September 2015

Aditi Bulletin Issue 3

Note from Managing Editor
This issue of Aditi focusses on Engagement with Policy makers. While ideating the theme with the Editorial Board, several useful insights, ideas were shared. As a result, this issue has a varied audience/stake holders who have contributed articles and also were interviewed to make it a meaningful issue. The contributors include, policy makers, funders, Heads of Think Tanks and other key players engaged in the policy making processes around the worlds.

Managing Editor, Aditi


Suresh Raghavan
Director, Public Affairs Centre

Engagement is about connecting and communicating. And when Think Tanks engage with policy makers, they aim to connect with responsibility and communicate with intent. Let’s tease these apart.
Connecting with responsibility implies that Think Tanks reorganise information and prepare knowledge in fresh ways so that they truly represent reality to those in power. Inherent in this formulation are the values of verity and sincerity. Yet, when a Think Tank attempts to communicate with intent, new elements arise that may be at variance with these, viz. purpose, direction and duration. Often a Think Tank aims to influence policy with a specific purpose that might promote its own reasons for existence. This purpose moves the effort away from the neutrality implied in the value base of a research. The direction of the engagement could take the Think Tank along new routes that compromise the original purpose.

All of us in the Think Tank Initiative are familiar with the fact that the actual process of policy engagement is rarely linear or scientifically constructed. The rough and tumble of persuasion, name peddling and string-pulling to advance a fresh idea or innovation is in itself a daunting set of tasks. It is often seen that the most successful policy engagements are directly proportional to the degrees of alignment that the proposed change will have with currently running and approved processes of governance. Systems may be more amenable to being bettered, not changed altogether. To put it succinctly, the pot may be stirred if it does not boil over, or if the primary flavour does not change. New condiments are welcome provided the gravy does not take a new consistency.

Then again, Think Tanks like to believe that they do not only think, but do act at times. If policy engagement is to serve a higher purpose at all, it must be to influence lives for the better. To that end, could Think Tanks stir the pot differently, joining hands with other agencies so as to offer other cooks an opportunity to contribute to the change process meaningfully?

This issue of Aditi brings together several ideas and experiences of how change can be stimulated, prodded and effected through a variety of methods and approaches. The need now is to improve our databases on kinds and types of engagement, measures of success as well as pointers to potential failures. Most important, there is a need for  general knowledge of the world-view of policy makers that allow for good ideas to sneak in and take root to make the change happen.

Innovate More: North America’s New Development Mantra
Ravi S Jha, Senior Public Policy Administrator, Toronto, Canada

Policy Making: A Serious Matter
Dr. Annapoorna Ravichander, Head CPE, CSTEP and Arushi Sen, Senior Communications Officer, CSTEP

Policymakers: Unravelling a Heterogeneous World
Vanesa Weyrauch, Co-founder, Politics&Ideas and Leandro Echt, Member en Politics & Ideas: A Think Net and On Think Tanks

Case Studies
Juan Fernández Labbé, Researcher and coordinator Unit M&E, Rimisp-Centro Latinoamericano para el Desarrollo Rural

Richard Darlington , Head of Strategic Advocacy, Well Told Story 


Engaging with Policy Makers: Playing a Game of Patience
Concept - Dr. Jai Asundi, Principal Research Scientist, CSTEP
Illustration - Bhawna Welturkar, Graphic Designer, CSTEP


Interesting Readings
Think Tank Research Quality, Lessons for Policy Makers, the Media, and the Public

Edited by:

Published in 2010
This book brings together 21 of those reviews, focusing on examining the arguments and evidence used by think tanks to promote reforms such as vouchers, charter schools and alternative routes to teacher certification.

Scholars, Policymakers, and International Affairs, Johns Hopkins University Press, October 2014

The book, edited by Abraham Lowenthal and Mariano Bertucci, is a collection of 15 chapters written by a various policy makers and scholars with policy experience about what has worked in the past and what hasn’t.

Compiled by Dr. Annapoorna Ravichander, Head, CPE, CSTEP

Article 1

Innovate More: North America’s New Development Mantra

Ravi S Jha
Senior Public Policy Administrator, Toronto, Canada

China and India are moving towards an innovation tipping; there is a widespread concern in North America (Canada and US) that at some point in their development trajectory, both these countries will have more innovative enterprises. While Indian and Chinese undertakings along with its con-sumers are becoming increasingly cultivated, their phenomenal size and ever-growing numbers are becoming important adjudicators of trends around the world.

However, it is not surprising that for the United States and Canada to maintain and augment its high standard of living, the respective federal governments should work towards ensuring that the North American economy be innovation-driven. One way of ensuring this is making the various levels of policy makers understand the need to invest more time and money to promote and encourage innovation.

Compared to India and China, Canada has a small population, and there is a compelling need to work at diversifying and upsizing markets. Relying solely on a domestic economy to dispense support necessary for invention can have devastating consequences for economy. Therefore it is crucial for North America to remodel its public policy agenda to increase the emphasis laid on innovation. In Canada, for instance, the federal authorities have long developed policies to drive invention. In-novation has not been on the priority. Going by the typical school book postulation, the two are not the same, and the governments must recognise this to achieve an effective public policy. 

Innovations are largely built from inventions, but innovation in products, services, and processes is an essential instrument that will drive prosperity and competitiveness. Canada’s government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the US President Barack Obama have together resolved to focus on policies for pulling more ideas and research in support of innovation. Global-level initiatives like The Innovation Policy Platform and iNNOVATION -Canada Alliance are also advocating the need for governments to focus on innovation policy making.

One has to look back at Steve Jobs’ stunning career, and how Apple, the world’s largest publicly traded corporation, derived success through innovation, and not solely based on invention. Apple did unproven things. Innovation in syncing the iPod with iTunes, forging to connect iPhone with Apple Watch and then with App Store, creating iPad and thinnest Macbook Air and seeking devel-opers to work on nearly 2 million applications. Apple never analysed and benchmarked the success and in no way was aware that such innovative products would completely change the way people communicate in the modern world.

If that is what is required for innovation to be recognised, then North American governments need to implement more policies in support of innovation; and support Enterprises like Apple that will practice innovation as the key to prosperity. There has to be public policies supporting innovation that can increase the odds of achieving full economic potential.

Article 2

Policy Making: A Serious Matter

Dr. Annapoorna Ravichander

Arushi Sen
Senior Communications Officer, CSTEP

Note: This section is compiled by Arushi Sen, Senior Communication Officer, CSTEP and Dr. Annapoorna Ravichander, Head, Communication and Policy Engagement, CSTEP during their various interactions with researchers and colleagues from other Think Tanks.

Think Tanks are in the business of policy research; their primary clientele is policy makers, hence interactions with policy makers takes place on a regular basis. Sometimes it is to introduce a new idea, sometimes to receive feedback or to discuss areas of common interest. In our capacity of working as members of the Communication and Policy Engagement team, we are often the audience for researchers sharing their experience of engagements they have had with policy makers. 

We remember one of our researchers saying that he considers these sessions as a good opportunity to learn a new language. The said researcher hails from a different part of India, while Kannada is the language used most commonly in conversations with GoK (Government of Karnataka) policy makers. So, the researcher not only engages in serious technical discussions but also learns new words and phrases in Kannada; reaping a dual benefit from his engagements with policy makers. 

In another instance, a researcher once stated that whenever she goes to attend a meeting with a policy maker, what she looks forward to is the animated discussions that result from her research findings. It is endearing for her to see policy makers get so involved in the discussions despite their busy schedule and paucity of time. This is very important for a Think Tank or for a researcher, since a 2-way dialogue always makes a discussion useful.

One day, over a cup of tea, a colleague shared with us that in one of her meetings with a government
official, after the customary introductions, she was asked, “Toh, aapka Tank kaisa hai?” (How is your tank?). Initially she was taken aback; what was the person referring to? After a few probing remarks, she realised that he was referring to the Think Tank she was working in as a researcher. On the flipside, the same researcher was also subjected to the following comment by a transport department official: “Madam, aap toh Think karte ho, lekin humein toh ground mein kaam karna padta hai!” (Madam, your work is based on Thinking, while we have to work at the ground level!)

Nancy Gibbs

There is sometimes a serious disconnect between theoretical models and education about policy and the ground realities of what works and what does not. 

Frank Carlucci
A senior research scientist once told us over a cup of coffee, “I have strongly found that the government officials and industry staff at all levels are usually very knowledgeable about the various policy options and industrial processes. I have also found that many people with formal education sometimes fail to understand this. As a result, when some speakers use a lot of jargon and theoretical concepts in their conversations, the policy and industrial staff are usually unimpressed and are cynical about many experts who have formal education in policy. I have also found a lot of talent, knowledge and skill in industrial plants in India and sometimes expats and NRIs underestimate the depth of this knowledge, sometimes with humorous outcomes.”

Such incidents are not limited to CSTEP researchers alone. A friend from a partner institution had this to say:

Elizabeth Warren
One of our 'champions' (policy maker), who we interact with on a regular basis, tries to engage us as soon as he takes charge of a department (and he is moved around quite frequently due to his obsession to make everything transparent). When he was the Hubli-Dharwad Municipal Commissioner and we carried out a CRC with our own funds for HDMC, public bus transport and electricity. It was interesting how he called all his officials to the presentation, and then at the time of public release of the findings presented his viewpoints and his commitment to take corrective actions for some of the critical CRC findings. When he became the Managing Director of a government department he actually came out with a Government Circular citing each of our CRC findings and his plan to take care of them which was also inserted into the final report and put up in the public domain. 

Another committed person I have met is a senior government representative who supported  and advised us about the persons we should meet, shared a few publications that she had received on the subject and promised to even attend any meetings that we have with the people she suggested! This despite the fact she was not directly able to help us!!

An interesting conversation that I listened in was at the State Planning Board some time back when one of the senior official asked his colleague  to find out how many departments had taken action on the suggestions given to them through the various studies that they had commissioned. The colleague responded that when she went through the responses from the department the standard response seemed to be 'Action Taken' but not what they were!

Note: Caricatures by Bhavna Sharma, Associate CPE, CSTEP

Article 3

Policymakers: Unravelling a Heterogeneous World

Vanesa Weyrauch
Co-founder, Politics&Ideas

Leandro Echt
Member en Politics & Ideas: A Think Net and On Think Tanks

When reflecting about the link between research and public policies, academics and practitioners usually refer to two key actors of this relationship: the researchers and the policy makers. While there is some clarity on the characteristics of the former, we believe that those who aspire to inform decision making with research and evidence should avoid talking generically about ‘policy makers’. Or at least we should be aware of the diversity of profiles that coexist under this denomination and adjust our ways to engage with them accordingly. In fact, according to their profiles the type and format of knowledge they need/request will vary significantly.

Under Politics & Ideas’ online course “Leaders of change: developing Latin American policymakers´capacity to promote the use of knowledge in policy” we conducted a first effort to identify, on the one hand, information needs according to decision levels, and on the other hand, we also delved into the different decision making styles. 

What information for each decision making level?

The needs for information of public-sector officials shall vary based on their hierarchical position within the sector. Papadópulos (2013, in Spanish) distinguishes three levels of management: political, strategic and operating actors. 

While political actors make decisions on the global orientation of a certain policy, strategic actors are responsible for the political design and operating mangers are those in charge of all policy implementation actions. Within these three levels, the needs for knowledge vary.

Political actors work in a world of ideas and policy models and their involvement in policy making is not daily. Their involvement is more intense during periods of innovation or policy change. Moreover, a second distinction might be done under political actors: those with a clear electoral nature (who actively compete for position in the elections), and those who are nominated to political position by other politicians with higher authority within the party.

Strategic actors, in turn, are engaged in a more day-to-day basis and their intervention is more intense during the implementation of new policies which require process innovation as well as the creation of specific programs. These actors' type of knowledge is related to the innovation in administrative processes, the design of information systems, high management systems and assessment and monitoring processes and strategies.

Finally, operating actors have a daily participation and they usually process the actions designed by political actors and, mainly, by strategic actors. Their needs for knowledge vary according to their place in the policy making and implementation process. 

Naturally, this distinction made by Papadópulos of the roles within the state structure and the need for knowledge obviously varies from one country to another -even from an administration to another or from one situation to another. The involvement of the different types of actors in the different instances of a public policy shall also depend on their profile, education, experience in the public sector and political interest.

However, the distinction can still be useful when thinking about the practice itself in the public sector and to visualize the different combinations that actually occur. What follows are some concrete examples that enable us to better understand what information may be useful according to the decision making level.

What drives political actors? 
When approaching politicians with evidence and information, it is also necessary to detect their incentives to perform act in the public sector. Indeed, these motivations are very diverse: 
  • Vocation for the public good. At times, the position they occupy is aligned with their abilities and interests. But many times they are assigned to a position in which they have no expertise. 
  • Public image. Many politicians seek to make visible their intervention in the policy process, especially those who are candidates in elections. 
  • Reputation among peers or the party. These politicians seek to find a suitable position within their party or in cabinets. They usually perform "behind closed doors" rather than seeking a high profile in the public life. 
  • Accumulation of power. All politicians seek political capital to expand their ability to influence government decisions. This ambition can be very large or marginal, but it is always present. 
  • Personal enrichment. Some politicians respond to economic incentives or seek private gain. This is not trivial, as many public policy decisions are made based on those interests. 
In most cases, political actors combine many of these motivations, some being more marked than others. 

Finally, besides recognizing their motivations, some questions of political nature might be helpful when bringing information to political decision-makers, such as: 
  • How does the politician invest his/her time? That is, recognize his/her political priorities reflected in the use of his/her time. 
  • To whom is the politican accountable? Who appointed him/her in the position? Who is his/her direct boss? Does he/she respond to the party’s interests? How much freedom of action does he/she have? 
  • What is his/her mental frame? What ideological preferences and life experience does he/she bring to his/her work as a political actor? How receptive is he/she to the technical aspects of public policies? How much does she/he know about the issue in question? This will help researchers understand why a particular decision choice might be better than another. For instance, if the politician has had experience working in an NGO, he/she might be interested in broadening participation in decision making. 
  • What is his/her immediate environment? Does he/she surround him/herself with advisors, family or friends in order to make decisions? To which external players does he/she usually listen to or assign legitimacy? 
  • What are his/her incentives ahead? Here researchers must consider the electoral calendar, the timing for budget debate, the legislative calendar, among other things. 
  • At what stage of the decision is he/she standing? Is it a decision to be made? Or is it a decision that has been already made? 
  • What plans does he/she have for his/her career in the short, medium and long term? 
How does ‘my’ policy maker make decisions? Acknowledging decision making styles 

Specialized literature provides us with several classifications for decision-making styles, which are often based on the private sector situation and not so much on the public sector. But having a sense of typical decision making styles shall be useful to recognize decision-making profiles within the different areas of work. 

In this direction, Brousseau shares a classification made based on two aspects: the amount of information used when making a decision and the number of alternatives created before making a decision. Regarding the use of information, some prefer to weight large amounts of data and evidence before making any decision. In management literature, those persons are called "maximizers": they do not rest until they are certain they have found the best possible answer. Benchmarking is a typical exercise suggested by these decision makers. The result is a well-informed decision but it may entail a cost in terms of time and efficiency. 

Other decision makers only look for key data and are able to quickly produce hypotheses and put them to the test as they go. In this case, literature calls them "satisfiers": they are ready to act as soon as they have enough information to satisfy their requirements. Tells the story that Bill Clinton, former US President, decided what course the country should take to face the Tequila crisis of 1994 in only 5 minutes in an office with his closest advisers, after they presented the situation and the available courses of action. 

As regards to alternative generation, those who make decisions with a "sole focus" firmly believe in taking a single course of action, while their counterparts with "multiple focuses" generate lists of possible alternatives and may take several courses of action at the same time. People with a sole focus concentrate their energy in making things turn out the way they think they should; those who resort to multiple focuses would rather adapt to the circumstances. This could be a main difference between politicians and technocrats in their approach to decisions making. In general, technocratic profiles seek to put all possible alternatives on the table, with its costs and benefits. On the contrary, politicians would rapidly choose one way (and hide others) according to their interests. Let's see this through a simple example: if a politician wants to promote public policy to lower levels of obesity in the population, he/she could consider three alternatives: to encourage people to exercise, to encourage them to change their eating habits or to promote the use of medicine. But if in the community where the politician has influence there is no place to exercise, this alternative will not be considered (will be invisible), and the other two remain as the possible ways. 

Besides classifying decision makers according to the amount of information they request, it is also possible to recognize decision-making styles that are more participative or collective, while others are more unilateral (i.e.: they want their team to collect data, to point some alternatives and let them decide which is the best). Typically, the first ones tend to provide more space when exchanging information, ideas and insights about a given situation (i.e.: they set up regular team meetings, invite other colleagues to bring their perspectives on a certain issue, etc), although often this process is affected by the urgency with which decisions need to be made, and thus they prefer to resort to unilateral decisions and to their own insight and knowledge to act. 

To sum up, there are clearly no cookie-cutters to engage with policymakers effectively. On the contrary, strategic communications of our research and ideas requires that we thoroughly think about the needs, the roles, the incentives and the decision-making styles of the most relevant policymakers and consequently select from our evidence and proposals, those that will be more relevant and appropriate to each- and then begin to identify when to communicate it, in which formats, spaces, etc. Probably a high but worthy investment if we aim at making our research of value and use in the policy realm.

Case Study 1

Best Public Policy is Achieved Through Dialogue: Rural Dialogue Group's Experience in Latin America

Juan Fernández Labbé
Researcher and coordinator Unit M&E
Rimisp-Centro Latinoamericano para el Desarrollo Rural

In Latin America, strategies to influence public policy are not always effective. The public policy networks are restricted in number and have relatively homogeneous actors. Without dialogue, the public policies run the risk of making mistakes and not being relevant to the reality of people’s lives. Comprehensive and inclusive dialogues are more likely to respond adequately to the problems of the population and formulate effective public policies.

Rural Dialogue Groups (RDGs), driven by the Latin American Center for Rural Development (Centro Latinoamericano para el Desarrollo Rural, RIMISP) in partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Mexico, have achieved concrete outcomes demonstrating that dialogues are a successful methodology for the development of rural areas in Latin America.

The RDGs are groups with 10 to 30 influential people from different sectors (government, guilds, producers, academia), which defines an agenda based on national contexts, public debates and political opportunities in the field of rural poverty. It also addresses various issues relating to the agenda, generating analysis and proposals for policy makers. With over four years of work in the countries where they are run, the RDGs show how dialogue has become a successful tool for policy influence and change.

In Ecuador, the contribution was related to the enactment of the National Policy on Supply of Certified Seeds of the Ministry of Agriculture for small rice and corn producers. Both the decision to conduct the first Competitive Improvement Plan to extend it to other production chains (bananas, rice, palm oil, quinoa) has been taken by the Minister from inputs and dialogues developed by the group. The methodology is as follows:
  • Presentation of analysis and debate in the Group (extended meetings lasting half a day)
  • Specific studies or consultancies; where upon
  • Determination by the authority of strategy, policy or program that incorporates the proposed elements are expected.
In Colombia, RDG has contributed significantly to the Rural Mission and the National Planning Department (DNP). The group is a learning space and guidance for policy, recognised valuable to exchange experiences, debate and recommendations to approach authorities and public officials. It is also an instance of joint networks of actors with experience in rural development, strengthening the possibility of informed debate and the establishment of areas of joint work. 

With the DNP, we worked on defining categories of rurality, which are suitable to classify territories and group them for intervention. This work resulted in a document prepared by the Directorate of Sustainable Rural Development (DDRS) under the Rural Mission. Also debating and installing in the discussion of key people and the guidance documents for the policies related to rural development, elements such as the territorial approach and the importance of citizen participation, multi-sectoral, integration and differentiation of the territories. 

In El Salvador, the RDG supported the National Environmental Policy and the draft Law on Food Security and Nutrition and Food Sovereignty, with the Agrarian Commission of the Legislative Assembly. In Mexico, the RDG has formed four working committees, focused on the dialogue for the incidence in the public budget reformulation, aimed at rural development, the functioning of agro food markets, the reform and improvement of the system of social protection and reduction of the violations of human rights.

Lessons and key mechanisms
The RDGs have been effective for the following reasons: a) the conversations that take place between people who have direct experience and with people with political capital on rural issues; b) developing a direct and effective communication between decision makers and representatives of several groups (gilds, small producers and academia); c) it combines different ways of knowing: generating technical and empirical knowledge, which delivers information relevant to for public policies and strategies in the countries; d) providing technical assistance to governments, supporting decision makers in processes of change.

The best public policy is achieved through dialogue and the Rural Dialogue Groups are a successful mechanism to achieve it.

For further information, visit: 

Case Study 2

Research, Relevance and Stress-testing Recommendations

Richard Darlington 
Head of Strategic Advocacy, Nairobi, Kenya, Well Told Story 
Founder of WonkComms

Think Tank researchers sometimes complain that policy-makers do not engage with their research when they publish it. They argue that ‘demand’ for evidence from policy-makers must to be stimulated. They despair that policy-makers ignore their evidence and instead make ‘political’ decisions. And when you ask them what the most important aspect of their work is, they say it is to strive for an ever high standard of research quality. 

My view is that research will only change policy if it is relevant to the challenges that policy-makers are grappling with. The ‘supply’ of research needs to be underpinned by policy engagement, in the same way that market-testing underpins successful sales. I think that every decision a policy-maker takes is ultimately a political choice and that research without realistic recommendations is best left to academia. Research quality is a hygiene factor for Think Tanks: you would not eat at a dirty restaurant just as you would not be influenced by poor quality research. But research quality, while being a necessary pre-requisite, is not enough to make your research influential. 

I have spent the last decade in a UK Think Tank which now has a twenty five year track record of influencing policy but even there, we still needed to remind our researchers (and socialise our new recruits). We discussed it, we reflected on it and we produced this handy guide:
Making research relevant, is key to the ultimate influence that you can have on policy Before even embarking on a research project, ask your researchers to consider the relevance of their work. Ask them to identify who the key actors in the policy area are (and therefore the key audience for their recommendations). 

Ask them to consider: 
  • Who can make the change you want?
  • Who can stop the change you want?
  • Who can influence those who can make the change you want?
  • Who can influence those who can stop the change you want?
  • Who would win/benefit from the change you want?
  • Who would lose out from the change you want?
Having identified the key audiences, ask them to engage with them. It is worth considering at the division of time and resources going into research and policy influence. Investing all your time and resource into research can be a false economy. Without time and resource for policy engagement, your research report may simply be left on the shelf.

Engagement is a two-way process. Engagement is not like pouring water from a cup to a jug. Engagement is a conversation where researchers can gain empathy from policy-makers about the constraints they are operating in, about the timescales they are working towards and, ultimately, what they are ‘in the market’ for. Engagement needs to start right at the beginning of a project and should not end until long after research is published. If your goal is policy change, then your research report is just one tool to be used in the pursuit of that goal. For example,  at CRES were able to reform tobacco taxation, not just in Senegal but across West Africa, because they engaged policy makers with their ongoing research.  

Research quality must be upheld: your credibility depends on it. But just as important is the stress-testing of recommendations. Can researchers defend their recommendations? Can they explain the validity of their methodology? Does their ‘pitch’ for policy change stand up to scrutiny, break-through scepticism and ultimately, engage with the politics of the possible?

The politics of possible is the intersection between three things: a problem, a policy and a capable political actor. Research needs to clearly identify and build a consensus around an agreed problem. But research also needs to propose, validate and advocate for a policy solution. Finally, a policy actor must be able to act, and that usually cannot happen unless politics aligns. A perfect solution to a widely acknowledged problem may have political barriers at one time but not at another. This is known as a ‘policy window’ and it is central to leveraging the politics of the possible.

Finally, are you communicating with clarity? Have you framed the argument and refined your message to influence the right change-makers? And are you making both a rational and an emotional case for change? The strongest cases for change include both a rational and emotional proposition. While a policy maker may justify the change they have made based on your rational evidence, their actions may only be inspired when you appeal to both their head and their heart.

Interview 1

John Parker
Beijing Bureau Chief, The Economist

How do you seek out information that is research based and make public policy-based arguments in your articles? Do you frequent Think Tanks often for this kind of information?
Marshalling evidence and understanding public-policy choices is at the core of what The Economist magazine does. Most of our articles use research and policy analysis, even straightforward news reports since these form the background to the news, and should help readers (and writers!) understand what is going on. And yes, we use Think Tanks both because they conduct a good deal of this sort of research and also because (usually) they try to be impartial. Governments, in contrast, sometimes keep their own research out of the public domain and universities tend to pursue academic agendas, rather than a public-policy one.

Does the work of Think Tanks trigger your interest or catch your attention? Which Think Tank according to you are successful in packaging their research work in a manner that is conducive for uptake by the media?
I think the leaders in the field are probably the large American Think Tanks, such as the Brookings Institution. They have an especially good track record of holding short (2 hour) panel discussions on current topics and inviting journalists like me along to them. Among Indian institutions, I am impressed by the research of institutions working in the field of energy, the environment and development, such as the Centre for Policy Research, the Council on Energy, Environment and Water - and yourselves.

Given the short attention span of most readers, including policy makers, what challenges do you foresee Think Tanks will face in catching and holding the attention of policy makers?
Yes, this is hard because policy makers (like journalists) respond to the ever-shifting news cycle, which changes by the minute, whereas Think Tanks deal in longer term trends. I think the best way to deal with the mismatch is for Think Tanks to be careful about the timing and selection of their public outreach: concentrate on those news events where you really have expertise and where your research has close relevance. 

Interview 2

Ibrahima Wade
Secretary General to the Strategy of Accelerated Growth 

Interviewed by Doudou Ndiaye
Director of Communications, CRES

During the time of the interview Ibrahim Wade was Secretary General to the Strategy of Accelerated Growth (SCA), a structure created by the public authorities to support the dynamic growth in order to achieve the growth rate of 7% on long years. He became Director General of the Office of operational monitoring of the Senegal's Emerging Plan (BOS). 

Can you describe SCA briefly?
SCA is an orientation of economic policy that Senegal thought after a long process of reflection, mutations of the Senegalese economy, for which, if we may say, is the part of the post-devaluation years to see how a little influence reverse the trend that was taking the trajectory of the Senegalese economy. These reflections led at the time, in 2000, "the strategy of the development of the private sector," which has helped to put in place a certain number of milestones and structures, including all structures accompanying in the private sector: SME development, support to operations, support or investment.

In 2008, a law of orientation was passed after the definition of what was called at the level of the SCA “the approach of competitiveness clusters". It was just a missing element in the development approach. It was to see how instituting maps of private dialogs at the sectorial level, how to ensure that the potential for diversification of sources of economic growth that was there, it is not operated or insufficiently operated at all, and how to put the conditions in any case so that these productive sectors more play their part in the growth of the economy.

So this was the basis of the approach for the CLUSTER we developed and started from 5 CLUSTERS growth: 
  • Industrial tourism 
  • Artisanal art 
  • Textile-clothing 
  • Agriculture-agro-business, 
  • TIC –teleservices-products of the sea-aquaculture 

That's the core business of SCA, a business who puts a lot in before the private sector and reinforces its leading position, on the one hand, lead the reforms, and initiate the reflection on the day on industries and sectors, but also to invest and produce. Similarly, it will lead us to a number of projects at competitiveness level, as it brought to produce the national activity report and also all that is a scientific thinking in the ecosystem of economic development.

We noticed that lately, the contacts between the world of research and SCA have intensified. What does that mean that research is also a niche for growth?
So the research, if I say to you quite recently it is because there's a fault somewhere. But research and innovation must be at the core of any process of economic development and emergence. First the academic world is still present in the work of the clusters, they are members of clusters, universities, research centres, specialized agencies and their contribution is important.

I’d like to give you a very simple example not at the conceptual basis but on the practical level. There are in the case of TIC-teleservices cluster which is part of the achievements, I forgot to note, the incubator CETIC-Dakar. This incubator that we set up in 2010, today we are in the process of working to set up it at the University of Ziguinchor and the University of St. Louis. This is  the contours of the university and academic executives. I am Vice President of the Board of Directors of incubator INODE V including, the Rector of the UCAD is the President and the private sector through the National Council of Employers is Vice President.

Therefore we say that have taken an approach to practice with the academic world, with agro incubator that we are in the process to fit with the Ministry of the Interior in St. Louis. At the UGB level, the incubator CETIC -Dakar we assembled with the UCAD, universities, moreover, through the establishment of TIC incubators Senegal. And making way, we work. The connection between SCA and the world of research, it is not the institution of the Permanent Secretariat which is important, it is how we can lead the private sector to open in the university and vice versa. We this is our role, it is a little part which we have played so far.
However, we spent this first level as we are saying, but in this rapprochement with the academic world, CRES, are research institutions that have tremendous research themes, reflections and even solutions we said but finally there is a very strong and strict separation between the rest of the country, public or private economy and the world of research. That's what has been the basis of our rapprochement with CRES and I must say that in the first attempt only, we were extremely impressed by the striking force in terms of existing products which are in so many solutions in various fields. We discussed the following themes: agriculture, social protection, education and infrastructure, but there was much more than that.

What are the prospects especially given to the directive like Prime Minister in the direction of exploring other themes?
I believe that for the future sets of themes we have ideas rather simple good as I say we are in a partnership. That’s why I said before that move towards the next forum we will propose organization of an evaluation meeting. Meeting with which the private sector and the Administration will be associated which will tell us that they are the big major issues of the day. And that one is deal today with the advent of Senegal emergent plan. And all that can guide us;once again CRES and SCA having two to three very specific topics that will be the themes of…..

The Prime Minister had spoken about energy, the digital economy, farming, fishing etc. I think that the place where we impact together will be with  CRES which will lead to selection. This will help us when we consider two or three main areas, to go very deep and not just give scientific delivery on the table but to say the scientific action-oriented resolution.

We strongly hope to organize a meeting for the next forum. I think one of the strong messages from the Prime Minister, besides its guidelines of saying "I urge the Administration to take an interest in better research and better use of its results in the future, with the result that enormously time which has to be saved. Because we have already wasted our time in making procurement, to study, to implement what we have studied. “Especially with the intellectual decline of the academic world I think we're on the right track, that's my prospectus of looking the things.

Before collaborating with the CRES did you know of its existence?
You may find it surprising, I knew that CRES as an institution on the outskirts of university and I took part a few years ago in a seminar and this was my first contact. When I received the invitation, I read the report, went through it and I tried to be as critical as possible and I thought what is this institution that speaks to me while digital economy whereas in its acronym, it had nothing more than Digital Economy and I found the report to be excellent. So this was my first contact and met Pr. Abdoulaye Diagne as part of the national dialogue on higher education where I was the Vice-Chairman of the Steering Committee. We worked together in the group thematic financing. We really worked very close way to model the financing. That's really where we saw that there was something to do, a boost to be given to economic policy in our areas of expertise and also discuss the results with CRES. I told Professor Diagne that they deserve to be known, it deserves to be popularised and it deserves to be brought to the attention of the higher private and public authorities. It is this synergy which we can take and a step forward.

Interview 3

George Perkovich
Vice President for Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

What are the unique/interesting ways in which Think Tanks have played a role in the policy making process?  
I speak from experience in the U.S. primarily.  There are many types of examples.  Much of the impetus for the U.S. to go to war with Iraq was generated by the American Enterprise Institute and the Project for a New American Century, two conservative Think Tanks.  Conversely, Think Tanks over the past 10 years helped push the objective of negotiating with Iran to resolve the nuclear crisis and injected a number of ideas that were then taken by negotiators into the process.  Think Tanks produce data on defense spending, drone strikes, and other actions that governments either may not collect and publicise, or may not do so in ways that are seen as objective.  Think Tanks also organise Track II and Track 1.5 dialogues, usually amongst representatives of countries that do not get along well at official levels and there are hundreds of examples of this.  Think Tanks have done great technical analysis of government programs, providing a check on what officials and contractors claim.  These are merely the first types of examples that come tomy  mind.

How would you assess research quality and ensure its importance when engaging with policy makers?  
It begins with hiring.  You want to hire people who've demonstrated that they know how to do first-rate research, publish in peer-reviewed publications, etc.  You also often send publications in draft to leading experts from various countries to seek their critiques before you promote results with policy-makers.  Then, to engage with policy-makers, it often helps to set up face-to-face meetings.  Many policy-makers are too busy to read more than very short texts, and it is a challenge to help them choose to read "yours."  So, face-to-face contacts are invaluable.

Interview 4

Peter Taylor 
Program Leader, Think Tank Initiative, IDRC

How has IDRC evolved over the years in its role of communicating new research ideas or opinions and also informing to public debate? How does TTI’s work reflect this evolution?
The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has, since its foundation in 1970, always placed an emphasis on communicating new research ideas and informing public debate. This goes back to IDRC’s mandate, as outlined in The International Development Research Centre Act : “to initiate, encourage, support, and conduct research into the problems of the developing regions of the world and into the means for applying and adapting scientific, technical, and other knowledge to the economic and social advancement of those regions.” As a result, IDRC encourages researchers who receive its support to build resources (time, people, funds) into effective communication of the research findings. This goes beyond simply disseminating findings of the research; it also includes active engagement with diverse audiences at various stages of the research, from concept development right through to the sharing of results and outcomes. IDRC aims to promote ways of ensuring the widest possible access to research ideas, findings, and recommendations, and one example of this is its new open access policy for all IDRC-funded research outputs. With the emergence of new information technologies, IDRC is also paying more attention to different forms of social media and emerging mechanisms for public engagement, some of which are supported by new technologies. This will continue to be a key focus for IDRC in the future. 

Just as IDRC views this as very important, so does the Think Tank Initiative (TTI). We provide ongoing support to institutions wishing to develop their communications and engagement efforts and, over the course of the Initiative, we have seen many TTI-supported institutions make significant improvements to their use of social media as well as their communication of publications and research outputs. There is also growing interest in data visualisation, which TTI encourages as a means for Think Tanks to get their work into the hands of wider audiences. And of course, the core funding that TTI provides is being used by all grantee institutions to strengthen their communication and engagement work as part of their pathway towards institutional sustainability.

Science and Technology enables most of modern development. How do you envisage IDRC taking this to a different level, in providing a platform for a discussion on the role of S&T on a nation’s growth? What is happening within the TTI program in this regard?
IDRC has a strong focus on science and technology within its overall programming. One of its three program areas is “Technology and Innovation “, the aim of which is to leverage science and innovation for development. The rationale for this, as the Technology and Innovation program explains, is that sscience, technology and innovation (STI) can drive economic growth, help solve social and environmental problems, and reduce poverty. All countries need to develop their capacity to produce and use science and technology themselves, and adapt knowledge to their needs and contexts. Societies also need to understand both the benefits and risks of emerging technologies, such as digital ones, in order to maximise their benefits. IDRC’s Technology and Innovation program supports research and capacity building to help developing countries produce, adapt, and use STI for development. Taking a recent example, IDRC was the co-host of the 2015 Open Data Conference, held in Ottawa, Canada. This platform brought together 1000 participants with a strong desire to engage around the important issue of access to data. The emphasis on STI will continue within IDRC’s recently established strategic objectives for the period 2015-2020.

Within TTI, several institutions are working on science and technology issues, for example CSTEP in India, and STIPRO in Tanzania. Examples of their work on science and technology can be found here. Although science and technology are not generally central to the work of TTI-supported institutions, the broader social and economic agendas that Think Tanks work on often do relate to science and technology issues, and we imagine this could be a growing area for many institutions engaging in public policy debates.

What is one of the most compelling stories you have seen on a generative engagement between research and policy-makers? What was the outcome of this engagement? What do you think created the shift in engagement?
We have seen many exciting and compelling stories emerge from institutions that TTI supports over the last 5 years. Actually, it is difficult to pick out one story as there are many. 

In Ghana, for example, we have seen the Institute of Economic Affairs create a convening space to which policy actors from across the political spectrum were invited to discuss political transitions following Presidential elections. The Institute then worked to turn these recommendations into concrete legislation. As a result of this engagement, a Presidential Transition Bill was passed in 2012 which helped secure more peaceful and effective processes following national elections. 

In Peru, research by Grupo de Análisis para el Desarrollo (GRADE), helped the Government of Peru make strategic investments in infrastructure to benefit rural Peruvians. Seeing a window of opportunity, GRADE provided the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion with research to support the design of a new infrastructure investment program. GRADE demonstrated that making two infrastructure investments in one area leads to a greater total increase in income for beneficiaries, and helped the Ministry identify those households most in need of access to infrastructure. As a result, the Ministry used GRADE’s findings to design its Infrastructure Combo program, which is expected to invest USD $225 million per year in basic rural infrastructure between 2013 and 2016. 

And in India, research on market-based mechanisms by the Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP) is helping India meet its increasing demand for energy more efficiently. CSTEP worked with India’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency to design the Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) mechanism, which promotes energy efficiency among large energy-intensive industries by allowing trade in Energy Saving Certificates. CSTEP reached out directly to a multitude of stakeholders, augmenting its research by facilitating meetings to raise awareness about the PAT mechanism and to improve the proposed methodology for it. These meetings, discussions and the briefs CSTEP prepared were crucial in establishing some of the goals set forth in the PAT framework. The organization also played an important role in communicating industry concerns to the government and in helping to address them. As a result, CSTEP’s research enabled the Government of India to design and implement PAT, the first market-based mechanism of its kind in India.

In engaging with policy-makers, what according to you are the blind-spots among Southern Think Tanks? What do these Think Tanks need to see and do differently?
There is no doubt that southern Think Tanks are becoming ever more aware of the value of engaging with policy makers – and indeed, with a diverse range of policy actors. Fortunately, evidence suggests that policy makers are also more interested in accessing the research results, data, and analysis produced by Think Tanks. For TTI, policy actors include not only government, but also public service; civil society and non-governmental organisations; other types of knowledge producing institutions such as universities; the media; and of course different supporters of the work of Think Tanks such as funders, both national and international. It is interesting to observe, however, that this wider group of institutions is not always considered an audience by Think Tanks. Failing to identify the range of key stakeholders and audiences for a specific research issue can lead to missed opportunities for engagement, as well as the insufficient targeting of information, outputs, or ideas to the particular interests of an audience. Conducting some form of environmental scan, or stakeholder analysis, can be a very effective means for a Think Tank to identify those with whom they can engage in relation to a particular policy issue. 

Another “blind spot” is perhaps not always recognising that policy engagement is crucial throughout the overall research process. It is often left to the end, as a means of sharing results rather than getting conversations started early on, despite the fact that it can help shape the design and approach of the research. And of course, fundamental communication skills are important. Many Think Tanks now are creating Communications and Engagement Units within the organisation, which bring the skills of communication specialists in-house. However, for a Think Tank, communications and engagement are really the responsibility of all researchers; a communications unit or specialist can bring excellent experience and skills to help support researchers, but ultimately it is a shared endeavour. 

Finally, it is worth highlighting a point that we often hear made by policy makers – the ways in which researchers present their results do not always resonate with the interests and needs of policy makers. Engaging with policy makers can help researchers better understand how to make their findings and analyses accessible and practically useful. On the Results page of the TTI website, there are a range of Stories of Influence which showcase ways in which Think Tanks around the world have influenced policy makers through effective engagement and communication. We hope these will prove useful to all Think Tanks who are interested in in strengthening the way they engage with different policy audiences.