Book Launch: ‘Strengthening Policy Research: Role of Think Tank Initiative on South Asia’

By Merlin Francis, Editor

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Evidence can be a powerful tool for policy change; however, when the corridors of power are closed, how does one ensure that public policies are based on evidence?

The book “Strengthening Policy Research: Role of Think Tank Initiative on South Asia” documents the opportunities, challenges and, most importantly, the need for influencing policy through the experience of 14 think tanks (supported by Think Tank Initiative) in five South Asian countries (Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India). The book was launched by the Institute for Social and Environmental Transformation-Nepal (ISET-N) in Kathmandu, Nepal on March 10, 2019.

These 14 think tanks were selected from over 200 applicants for the uniquely designed Think Tank Initiative (TTI) of IDRC, which supported think tanks for 10 years, in two phases. TTI provided core funding and capacity building in three critical areas: organisational development, research quality and policy engagement.

During the launch, Dr Samar Verma, Senior Programme Specialist, IDRC, said that there are two pressing challenges in today’s sociopolitical landscape that think tanks need to address: wicked problems (such as climate change that require an interdisciplinary approach to solutions) and fake news.

“Technology has allowed unprecedented reach to fake news and can now be misused to propagate ideologies, etc. Think tanks can counter this by informing policy with good quality, research-based evidence. Policymakers need to ensure that good quality evidence is not just generated but used in policy by encouraging solutions with multiple perspectives to challenges and providing a culture that promotes and encourages evidence for policy,” Dr Verma said.

Dr Bimala Pandel Rai, a member of the National Assembly of the Federal Parliament of Nepal, remarked, “Think tanks need to communicate with larger social movements, especially considering today’s anti-politics climate which has affected how the public concern themselves with policy matters.”

With TTI coming to an end, the future sustainability of think tanks was a key challenge as articulated in the book. “Evidence is a powerful tool for shifting policy perspectives in way that responds contextually to a problem. However, without core funding, the autonomy of think tanks for setting a relevant development and policy agenda is affected,” Dr Rai said.

Other developmental partners can read the book to gain insights into the challenges and solutions for an evidence-based policy and how think tanks are enabling this in South Asia.

“Strengthening Policy Research: Role of Think Tank Initiative on South Asia” is published by SAGE (INR 1,195). To get a copy, go to Amazon or Flipkart.

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