Think tanks do have an influence on public policy and shape new ideas
Think tanks do have an influence on public policy and shape new ideas - Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

This gap between the theoretically possible and the politically palatable is where the think-tanks dwell: mysterious organizations, made up of intelligent people who carry out research and commentary on issues of public interest.

But what are think-tanks? Who are these people, who hold genuine influence over public discourse, who carry out their own research, make recommendations – often, quite extreme recommendations? Where does their funding come from? What are their motivations, their agendas?

 

In RNZ’s Show The Detail, host Emile Donovan speaks to NZ Herald business editor-at-large Liam Dann, and Kathy Errington, executive director of new think-tank the Helen Clark Foundation, about what exactly these organisations do, what drives them, and whether we should be keeping a closer eye on them.

Related:

Pakistani think tank ranks in Global think tank rankings

Is the US think tank really attacking China?

35 percent citizens rejected the Britain’s electric vehicle plans, think tank

“[Think-tanks are] academic-trained people – doctors, economists, sociologists – in an organisation, which is committed to promoting public debate and discussion around public policy. Usually with an altruistic view, that they want to make the country a better place”, says Dann.

 

Many of the names of New Zealand’s most prominent think-tanks will ring a bell: the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research; Business and Economic Research Limited, or BERL; and the New Zealand Initiative.

 

But others have sprung up in recent years too: economic think-tank Motu; Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures, which is the brainchild of former chief science advisor to the prime minister Peter Gluckman; and public policy think-tank the Helen Clark Foundation.

 

 

Think tanks do have an influence on public policy and shape new ideas - Gerd Altmann/Pixabay
Think tanks do have an influence on public policy and shape new ideas – Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

Errington says the “non-partisan” element of the organisation stems from the fact that it has no formal ties with any political parties – although its patron is Helen Clark, former Labour Party leader and prime minister.

 

“We have the name of a living politician attached,” she says.

 

“I think it’s overwhelmingly a positive thing … but, like any living politician, there were people who would’ve had disagreements with her who might disregard what our organisation might say.”

 

Many think-tanks have formal – sometimes even commercial – partnerships with other organisations.

 

The Helen Clark Foundation, for example, has a relationship with Health Coalition Aotearoa, an umbrella organisation which keeps an eye on many aspects of the health system.

 

So, what does this mean for the integrity of the Helen Clark Foundation’s research?

 

Can a report maintain its academic integrity if it’s funded, even indirectly, by an organisation which undoubtedly has its own views on how things should work in the health sector?

 

Errington says the quality of the research must speak for itself, and that think-tanks’ reputations are established and maintained through consistency and open-mindedness.

 

“A key part of that is being transparent – you can see on our website who our partners are, how we’re funded. So people can draw their own conclusions from that.

 

“We are, fundamentally, independent: we have final sign-off on all our research output, so the research isn’t pre-cooked.

 

“Funding matters, and I think you should be transparent.

 

“[But] the quality of the work matters in the end. People are welcome to disagree with our conclusions … but the research itself holds up to scrutiny.”

14 COMMENTS

  1. Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed!
    Very useful info specifically the last part 🙂 I care for such info a
    lot. I was looking for this certain info for
    a very long time. Thank you and best of luck.

  2. Nice post. I used to be checking constantly this weblog and I’m impressed!

    Very useful information specifically the remaining part 🙂 I take care of such information much.
    I was seeking this particular info for a long time.
    Thanks and best of luck.

  3. I’m extremely impressed together with your writing skills as smartly as with the structure in your weblog.

    Is this a paid subject matter or did you modify it yourself?

    Either way keep up the excellent high quality writing, it is uncommon to see a nice blog like this one these days..

  4. Hi I am so delighted I found your webpage, I really found you by accident, while I
    was searching on Digg for something else, Anyways I am here now and would just like to say thanks a lot
    for a tremendous post and a all round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t
    have time to read it all at the moment but I have bookmarked it and also added
    in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read much more, Please
    do keep up the great work.

  5. I was wondering if you ever considered changing the structure of your website?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.

    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with
    it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two pictures.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

  6. Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your website and in accession capital to assert that I get in fact enjoyed account your blog posts.
    Anyway I will be subscribing to your feeds and even I achievement you access consistently quickly.

  7. Just wish to say your article is as surprising.
    The clarity in your publish is just cool and i
    could assume you are an expert in this subject. Well with your permission let me to seize your
    feed to stay up to date with drawing close post. Thank you 1,
    000,000 and please keep up the gratifying work.

  8. You actually make it seem so easy together with your presentation however I in finding this topic to be actually something that I
    think I might never understand. It sort of feels
    too complicated and very large for me. I’m taking a look ahead on your next submit, I’ll
    try to get the grasp of it!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here