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Friday, November 12, 2010

The "Think Tank" Factory فکری و تحقیقی ادارہ

a research institute or organization employed to solve complexproblems or predict or plan future developments, as in military,political, or social areas.
Also called think factory.

Origin: 1900–05 for earlier sense “brain”; 1955–60 for current sense
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2010.

Cultural Dictionary

think tank definition

An institution in which scholars pursue research in public policy.Largely funded by endowments and grants, think tanks work toimprove public awareness of policy issues (through publications) andto influence the government to act upon issues of nationalimportance. ( See power elite.)
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Slang Dictionary

think-tank definition

  1. n. a place where great minds are assembled to try to think upsolutions to problems or to envision the future. : She spent afew months in a California think-tank, then came back toteach.
Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions by Richard A. Spears.Fourth Edition.
Copyright 2007. Published by McGraw Hill.

Idioms & Phrases
think tank
A group or organization dedicated to problem-solving and research,especially in such areas as technology, social or political strategy,and the military. For example, The congressional leaders rely tooheavily on that conservative think tank . This term originated about1900 as a facetious colloquialism for brain and was given its newmeaning about 1950.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.

However, this definition has been challenged by recent research on the various functions played by think tanks in different societies. For instance, work in Latin America showed that think tanks can play a number of functions depending on their origins, historical development and relations to other policy actors:
  1. Seek political support for policies – This is an accepted definition of the main role of think tanks across the world.
  2. Legitimise policies–This has been clearer in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. New governments in Ecuador and Peru have approached think tanks for support for already defined policies. In Bolivia, the government led by Evo Morales has been working with NGOs and other research centres to do the same. However, in the Chilean context, many think tanks during the 1990s appeared to support and maintain the legitimacy of policies implemented during the previous decade by the dictator Augusto Pinochet.
  3. Spaces of debate – In this case think tanks serve as sounding boards for new policies. In Chile, during the Pinochet dictatorship, many left wing intellectuals and researchers found ‘asylum’ in think tanks. In Ecuador, think tanks are seen as spaces where politicians can test the soundness of their policies and government plans.
  4. Financial channels for political parties or other interest groups – In Ecuador and Bolivia, German foundations have been able to provide funds to think tanks that work with certain political parties. This approach has provided support to the system as a whole rather than individual CSOs.
  5. Expert cadres of policy-makers and politicians – In Peru after the fall of the Fujimori regime, and in Chile after the fall of Pinochet, think tank staff left to form part of the new governments. In the U.S., the role of leading think tanks is precisely that: host scholars for a few months or years and then see them off to work in policy.
How a think tank addresses these largely depends on how they work, their ideology vs. evidence credentials, and the context they operate in (including funding opportunities, the degree and type of competition they face, their staff, etc.).
This functional approach addresses the inherit challenge of defining a think tank. As Simon James aptly noted in 1998, "Discussion of think tanks…has a tendency to get bogged down in the vexed question of defining what we mean by ‘think tank’ – an exercise which often degenerates into futile semantics. It is better (as in the Network Functions Approach) to describe what the organisation should do. Then the shape of the organisation should follow to allow this to happen.
The following framework (based on Stephen Yeo’s description of think tanks’ mode of work) in the described in Enrique Mendizabal's blog:onthinktanks.
First, think tanks may work in or based their funding on one or more ways, including:
  1. Independent research: this would be work done with core or flexible funding that allows the researchers the liberty to choose their research questions and method. It may be long term and could focus on ‘big ideas’ with no direct policy relevance. On the other hand, it could focus on a key policy problem that requires a thorough research and action investment.
  2. Consultancy: this would be work done through commissions with specific clients and addressing one or two key questions. Consultancies often respond to an existing agenda.
  3. Influencing/advocacy: this would be work done through communications, capacity development, networking, campaigns, lobbying, etc. It is likely to be based on research based evidence emerging from independent research or consultancies.
Second, think tanks may base their work or arguments on:
  1. Ideology, values or interests
  2. Applied, empirical or synthesis research
  3. Theoretical or academic research
Pakistan has a number of think tanks which mainly revolve around Internal Politics, Foreign Security Issues, and Regional Geo-Politics. Most of these are centered around the capital, Islamabad, and have been founded by former Military and Intelligence Personnel.
Other think tanks concern religion and how its influence could grow in an otherwise unreligious country. These are centred throughout the country and work under the umbrella of the mammoth Jamaat-e-Islami with headquarters in Lahore and has immense global influence, reach and regard among Muslims.
There are several other think tanks as well, such as those concerning the state of education in the country which hold many former or present educationists. There are also think tanks concerning human rights, women rights, labour rights, justice, city development, heritage protection and environmental protection, all headed by the country's urban dwelling, educated elite living, most of whom have studied and/or worked abroad.
Most are known to the general public through seminars and newspaper articles, or conducting workshops and lectures at colleges and universities.

Credits: Various Research Resources

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