Think tanks may get a bad rap around Washington for being partisan and/or corporate tools, but a column in The East African argues that local think tanks in developing countries deserve more donor support:
The piece is by Marie-Claude Martin of the International Development Research Centre’s Think Tank Initiative, which supports local think tanks in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia. The Open Society Institute runs a similar Think Tank Fund focused on Central and Eastern Europe. If anyone knows of other programs like these, please chime in below.
My broader takeaway: In trying to find local solutions to development problems, we focus too much on how to adapt policies and institutions from developed countries. We would have more success if we instead focused on who does the adapting — or even better, let them forget about adapting and just pursue whatever makes sense in their context. Supporting local think tanks creates capacity for this within local civil society, balancing the government and donor dominance of the policy debate.
UPDATE: This recent piece by Ajoy Datta takes a closer look at the roles played by think tanks and the politics behind their history outside the US.