Although think tanks are becoming increasingly well-known actors in public life, the idea of focusing on think tanks as a topic for research is fairly new. Those who have so far undertaken research on think tanks have used different approaches, drawing on organizational development, analysis of policy cycles, or measurement of policy influence. In the summer of 2012, I had the opportunity to travel to Bangladesh to undertake research on think tanks. Below, I share my reflections as a young researcher, and focus on defining and describing the work of think tanks.
[Editor’s Note: Ahmed K. Rashid is a development analyst and researcher. He has worked for the Think Tank Initiative and Governance and Justice Program at the International Development Research Centre (IDRC)].
My research focused on three areas: how think tanks strive to influence policies, how think tanks engage with international donor agencies and how mainstream media perceive think tanks’ outreach activities. I had the privilege to talk to think tank executives, researchers, media relations officers, donor agency officials, and journalists. Some of the think tanks I engaged with included the Centre for Policy Dialogue, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, Bangladesh Institute of Security and Peace Studies, and Research Initiatives Bangladesh.