Think Tanks Providing Research and Advice through Interaction and Networking Programme

Publish Date: Jan 25, 2016

Deadline: Feb 15, 2016

Programme aims

The TRAIN Programme (Think Tanks providing Research and Advice through Interaction and Networking) seeks to foster a fruitful policy dialogue between think tanks and political actors in the EU candidate countries and potential candidate countries of the Western Balkans (comprising Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia). Especially with a view to the European integration process, the voice of think tanks of the region and their impact upon national policy-making must be strengthened and their visibility and credibility vis-à-vis EU actors enhanced.

In order to build the necessary institutional capacity in the countries concerned and to support networking within the region as well as in Brussels, the programme focuses on four areas:

- Training to build upon and enhance existing capacities;

- Regional co-operation to exchange good practices;

- Interaction with national political actors to influence policy debates;

- Networking with EU actors to increase visibility on the Brussels stage.

Target group and thematic focus The TRAIN Programme aims to support think tanks with a clear policy-oriented approach that focus on national, regional and/or international politics.

Key aspects for the selection of participating institutes will be:

- Research capacity and professionalism as demonstrated through regular publications containing specific policy recommendations to decision-makers;

- Centrality of EU integration and related issues to the work of the think tank;

- Experience in communicating results of their research to relevant actors such as national parliaments, national media, and political parties.

The TRAIN Programme 2016 is open to twelve researchers from different think tanks across the Western Balkans region. Each participating researcher will be expected to draft a policy paper dealing with a topic which is relevant to the EU integration process of his/her respective country or the region as a whole and closely related to the overarching theme of the 2016 TRAIN Programme, namely fundamental rights in the Western Balkans.

Fundamental rights include, but are not limited to, the protection of minorities and vulnerable groups, anti-discrimination policies, freedom of thought and expression, access to justice, and explicitly the fundamental rights at borders, the rights of migrants in an irregular situation, and asylum. 

Participating researchers should be full employees of their respective think tank and should commit to the programme for its entire duration. They must have (co-)published at least one policy paper prior to the beginning of the programme.

Programme content

The TRAIN Programme is divided into four key stages:

1. An introductory regional seminar will offer the occasion to set the research agenda, exchange good practices, and begin networking. A targeted workshop will aim to enhance existing capacities with regard to the drafting of policy papers and effective dissemination strategies. This will set the stage for individual work on a policy paper dealing with a topic in the area of fundamental rights, relevant to the EU integration process and containing concrete recommendations and policy options.

2. A mid-term seminar in Berlin will allow for a review of the draft policy papers and discussion with relevant actors from the German policy scene on the chosen topics. Participants will receive feedback both on the content and structure of their papers and will be able to discuss regional best practices. The seminar agenda will be complemented by a workshop focusing on policy advocacy, and in particular presentation skills. Based on the feedback received, participants will finalise their policy papers over the summer.

3. A wrap-up seminar in Brussels will allow the participating researchers to present their findings to EU decision-makers and thus to establish contacts with relevant Brussels actors. They will discuss their policy papers with actors from different EU institutions (European Commission, European Parliament and Council of Ministers) and Brussels-based organisations and receive input in view of the dissemination of their results to national policy-makers.

4. The dissemination stage of the programme will take place at the national level and should bring together key decision-makers from the Parliament and relevant ministries. Building upon the findings in the policy papers, think tanks should establish a fruitful policy dialogue and actively feed their ideas into the policy process. The dissemination activities will be open to participants from the German embassies and political foundations on the ground. A final summary of the activities will be sent to the organisers in the form of a report at the end of the programme period.

Key benefits

The main benefits of the TRAIN Programme lie in the capacity-building workshops and the networking opportunities awarded to the researchers from each participating think tank. All travel and accommodation expenses related to the participation in the programme will be borne or reimbursed by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). While no direct payments towards salaries can be made, each policy paper will be awarded a €250 grant. Furthermore, the language editing of the final policy paper can be subsidised with up to €100 and its printing with up to €200 (upon presentation of the receipts).

Programme outline

  • Application deadline: 15 February 2016
  • Selection decision communicated to applicants: end of February 2016
  • Programme duration: March – December 2016
  • Advanced research proposal submitted by: 31 March 2016
  • Regional Seminar: 5-9 April 2016
  • Draft papers submitted by: 16 June 2016
  • Berlin Seminar: 21-25 June 2016
  • Consolidated draft papers submitted by: 25 August 2016
  • Final papers submitted by: 06 October 2016
  • Brussels Seminar: October/November 2016
  • Dissemination of results to national decision-makers: October/November 2016
  • Final report due: 24 November 2016

How to apply

Applications should include

- a completed application form 

- a CV of the prospective programme participant (max. two pages, including information on the applicant’s education, relevant work experience and publications).

To apply, please send all required documents by 15 February 2016 at the latest via email to Sarah Wohlfeld ( The subject line should read “Application: [name of researcher, name of think tank]”.

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