Handbook on Think Tanks in Public Policy
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Handbook on Think Tanks in Public Policy

Edited by Donald E. Abelson and Christopher J. Rastrick

This important Handbook is a comprehensive guide to the role, function and perceived impact of policy research-oriented institutions in North America, Europe and beyond. Over 20 international scholars explore the diverse and eclectic world of think tanks to reveal their structure, governance and unique position in occupying a critical space on the public-policy landscape.
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Chapter 8: Think tanks and policy communities: analysing policy influence and learning from the analogue to the digital era

Evert Lindquist


Think tanks have existed for a hundred years, with a steady surge in numbers and variety in size, focus, value orientation and repertoires for insight and influence since the 1970s and 1980s. They are viewed as key members of policy communities and important sources of information, commentary and sites for dialogue, but are beguiling to categorize because of their diversity. This chapter explores the evolution of the literature on think tanks and whether analytic frameworks sufficiently capture their diversity and multiple channels of influence, in particular whether prime policymaking frameworks (advocacy coalition, multiple-streams, narrative policy frameworks, etc.) have been sufficiently levered to assess think tank contributions and impact in the digital era. This chapter argues that more systematic use of these frameworks and ‘thicker’ empirical methods to assess whether and how think tanks foster policy learning could also lead to important strides in literature on learning in policy communities.

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