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Exploring Effectiveness and Impact Think Tanks-University relationships in South Asia Geof Wood May 2014, Nairobi, Kenya.

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Presentation on theme: "Exploring Effectiveness and Impact Think Tanks-University relationships in South Asia Geof Wood May 2014, Nairobi, Kenya."— Presentation transcript:

1 Exploring Effectiveness and Impact Think Tanks-University relationships in South Asia Geof Wood May 2014, Nairobi, Kenya

2 Introduction South Asian Landscape of Policy Research Thinks Tanks: Origins and Organisational Autonomy Apolitical and political Political alignments University share some TT characteristics GONGOS Struggle for autonomy Fluidity of university missions Quest for independent public policy research and advocacy

3 Initial Conceptual Framework

4 place the two sets of institutional actors in the centre of the picture, with their resource mobilisation options located above them, their respective drivers and incentives alongside them, their outputs nested within a description of each set of actors with respect to whether research commissioned or self-determined, forms of dissemination, architect/contractor tensions, and adaptability to demand side timelines, and the effect of all this on outcomes at the bottom of the picture in terms of forms of knowledge and direction of links to policy and practice.

5 Rationale for Initial Framework: Architects and Contractors Metaphors and trade-offs Architect refers to more autonomous, supplier driven research Contractor to more demand driven, commissioned research and subject to interference in outputs Autonomy at price of policy irrelevance (universities) Dependence on donors/government commissions to have a relevance profile But which direction are the two sets of institutions travelling? Convergence, competition, collaboration and cooption

6 Effectiveness and Impact: Fit for Purpose Core questions of value of research, evidence, implications for policy and capacity of policy consumers to absorb Contestation of purpose, often within institutions Changing criteria of performance Internal heterogeneity, personalised micro missions Price of institutional sustainability Other effectiveness variables: legitimacy through independence; dialogue between supplier and consumer; complex analysis to lay audiences

7 Governance: Accountability and Informed Policy Internal mechanisms and capacity to examine policy choices are weak Powerholders can behave with impunity Knowledge monopolised for class and ethnic advantage Limited access state Constraints to citizenship through disconnect with policy dialogue Intermediation can be disempowering Intermediation becomes permanent Responsible expertise

8 Civil and Knowledge Society Universities, think tanks and civil society Technico-rational basis to public choice South Asia: challenges to principles of knowledge society Policy process dominated by unaccountable elites Disempowering by elite expertise—how to overcome? Traditions of action-research Participatory methodologies and Epistemic communities Universities in the VfM, relevance, impact discourse The South Asian landscape: planning commissions, federal structures; capacity to absorb analysis; status of policy sciences; significance and role of donors

9 Characteristics of Policy Process: Short and Long Loops Complexity; satisficing; disjointed incrementalism; labelling; NPM-long loop Short loop MIS Results chain—supplier and demand issues Problem of valuation of policy research

10 Barriers to Policy Research: Varied Experience Access to funds Human resource constraints Restricted access to data Security issues No-evidenced based policy making: competing rationalities Political neglect Bureaucratic resistance to criticism Capital centric research/policy networks Cultural sensitivities: women; ethnicity and religion Donor volatility

11 Respective Missions: Universities and TTs Universities: academic purpose and knowledge building, teaching and scholarship; discipline development; quality not seniority; public policy research—scholarship with theory rather than empirical, funded research; TTs on campus? TTs: Breakaways and Government Knowledge deployment; implicit theories of change; applied; staff interface with policy; methodologically up to date; evidence oriented; Imitation and convergence Fragility of TT missions

12 Hard and Soft Structures Universities and bureaucratic processes; necessity for large organisations; hard structures—rigid, inflexible, procedural rationality Depressor on innovation and creativity? TTs: tiny organisations by comparison; informal HRM; agility; substantive rationality—output oriented; soft structures Does contrast inhibit University-TT relations? If institutional convergence: do institutions lose comparative organisational advantage for respective core mission? Merit of differentiation. Hence movement of individuals between different working practices

13 Quality Maintenance: Mutual Agenda? Status of social sciences and receptivity to their forms of analysis Discipline standards and commissioning judgements TTs especially exposed to criticisms of quality (shorter projects and deadlines) Incentive to associate TT outputs with quality sources from universities—institutionally or individually Thus cooption for credibility and legitimacy, including publications TT credibility enhanced by staff contributing to university courses Not just PR, so collaboration a necessity for thinly spread TTs needing specialisms for particular assignments Moonlighting or rotation—can/should this be moved up from individual movements to institutional agreements? Effect on universities of staff leakage, incentive for campus TTs with enclaved business models But if universities have large secure income, then incentives to diversify income are weak Key issue—? Change in performance indicators towards public policy relevance

14 Conditions for ‘thinking in Public Policy Leaky tanks, missions evolve, Metamorphosis Core problem of goal displacement Avoidance of contractor function Core principle of independence and autonomy Need to distinguish between genuine TTs and consultancy companies Shifts from supply to demand drivers From strategic to tactical purposes

15 Conclusion: Knowledge Building and Knowledge Deployment

16 Independent Research for Public Policy Are think tanks in danger of losing architect status and becoming contractors—commercialisation of knowledge? Institutions are heterogenous. Due to specific missions, funding profile and access to quality inputs from universities, TTs in India appear to be less exposed to such threats, and able to maintain more autonomous, independent knowledge building for public policy In BD and Pakistan, the threats are higher due to wider missions, quality, funding profiles and thus goals can be displaced, moving towards knowledge deployment and less autonomy When TTs have strong internal human resource capacity, they interact less with universities Universities increasingly interested in occupying the classic, knowledge building for public policy, think tank space through on-campus TT initiatives Universities can offer sustainability for independent policy research through more secure, long range funding, offering internal cross subsidies to their Centres and TTs—drivers to do so? Private Universities are too recent to enter this arena, remaining preoccupied with teaching, but individuals move into other roles


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