A robust policy process is critical to building open society. It offers a venue for wide public participation, enables a discussion of ideas informed by evidence, and prevents attempts to establish a monopoly on truth. Strengthening such processes is critical to Open Society’s mandate of ensuring justice, advancing human rights, promoting transparency, and ending discrimination. Out of the many participants in the policy process, we focus on think tanks because they strengthen democratic processes by: 1) identifying political, economic, and social problems, 2) researching them in a nonpartisan and scientifically rigorous manner, and 3) providing policy alternatives that enrich public debate. Think tanks are vital not only because they advocate specific remedies, but also because these remedies are informed by carefully accumulated and analyzed data, making them harder to ignore than emotional normative appeals or isolated instances of abuse.
The majority of donors operating in the field of policy research provide project funding for analytical materials on specific topics. As a result, both public policy centers and their funders focus almost exclusively on particular policy outputs and their immediate advocacy at the expense of pursuing deeper institutional development of think tanks. This creates a niche for the Think Tank Fund to assist the overall development of grantees in three specific areas: quality of research products, communications and advocacy capacity, and internal development and governance. Our mission is to contribute to building strong think tanks that produce high-quality policy analysis, deliver it to a wide range of audiences to galvanize public interest and debate, and operate as sustainable and internally robust nonprofit organizations.
Organizational development grants aim to provide support for improvement in the three specific areas of think tank activity and operation mentioned above. An organizational development grant can cover from one to all three areas for a period between one to two years based on an applicant’s demands, merit of the proposal, and the time needed for implementing necessary changes.
The Think Tank Fund does NOT support:
- grantees who have received six years of Think Tank Fund core and institutional funding
- core funding that does not target one of the organizational development components listed above
- thematic project funding or stand-alone policy research
- academic research
- assistance to public institutions
- academic fellowships and scholarships
- one-off events (e.g., workshops, seminars, conferences, publications)
- research in arts, humanities, and natural sciences
- technical assistance projects
Purpose and Priorities
Organizational development grants support only the development component of independent policy research actors. Prior to receiving a grant, applicants will have to analyze what does and does not work inside the organization. They will be the drivers of change by presenting a detailed plan for overall organizational development and clearly indicating in which of the three areas (research, communications, and internal management) they require improvement and how they will implement it.
Applicants will also be required to show how any grant expenses are tied to proposed changes in improving quality of research products, communications and advocacy capacity, and internal development and governance. For example, if a think tank applies for funding to help make its policy briefs more methodologically rigorous, the Think Tank Fund would be able to cover part of the salary for a policy analyst or a fee to a peer reviewer, but not for an accountant or even a senior researcher if neither works on improving this aspect of work. At the same time, the Think Tank Fund believes that any change requires general organizational investment and is willing to cover part of an applicant’s overhead cost.
Please check the Download Files section for complete guidelines.
Applicants should upload a brief concept paper of no more than four pages through the Open Society Foundations Grant Portal. Please attach your concept note as a single file in the “Notes and Attachments” section of the application system. Please do not paste your concept note to the “Project Description” field; instead simply indicate there “Organizational development grant.”
While applications are accepted on a rolling basis, organizations that would like to have their submissions reviewed in summer 2016 should send their concept papers no later than March 18, 2016. Any inquiries should be directed to: email@example.com.