Ranking the Think Tanks, Planning for World Future Day, and more

  • Sharebar
Volume 4,
Number 2
February 14, 2018

Think Tank Rankings for 2017

The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP), led by University of Pennsylvania international studies scholar James G. McGann, has released '2017 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report,” its annual report rating organizations pursuing public policy research, analysis, and recommendations around the world. This year’s report calls special attention to the role of think tanks in addressing resource issues, as TTCSP “is sounding the bell that nations should begin to prepare for the daunting challenges that they will face because of food and water insecurity this century,” McGann writes, calling think tanks the “first responders to the growing food and water crisis.”

The Brookings Institution regained its position as the top-ranked think tank of the year (Britain’s Chatham House held the title a year ago). Brookings and the RAND Corporation are the only two specifically future-focused think tanks in this year’s top 10 list:

1. Brookings Institution (United States)
2. French Institute of International Relations (France)
3. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (United States)
4. Bruegel (Belgium)
5. Center for Strategic and International Studies (United States)
6. Chatham House (United Kingdom)
7. Fundação Getúlio Vargas (Brazil)
8. Heritage Foundation (United States)
9. RAND Corporation (United States)
10. International Institute for Strategic Studies (United Kingdom)

The 10 future-focused think tanks Foresight Signals has been tracking for the past few years are (in alphabetical order):

Brookings Institution. In addition to the No. 1 think tank globally, Brookings also ranked No. 1 in foreign policy and international affairs, No. 1 in domestic economic policy, No. 3 in international economic policy, No. 3 in international development, No. 3 in education policy, No. 3 in social policy, No. 4 in defense and national security, No. 4 in transparency and good governance, No. 6 in both global and domestic health policy, No. 10 in environment policy, No. 20 in energy and resource policy, and No. 46 in science and technology. Brookings also ranked third as a “think tank to watch in 2018.”

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation is ranked the No. 1 science and technology think tank and the No. 48 think tank in the United States, moving up in both categories over last year’s rankings.

Hudson Institute is the No. 105 think tank worldwide, No. 18 in the United States, No. 29 in foreign policy and international affairs, No. 33 in defense and national security, No. 60 in international development, and No. 97 in domestic economic policy.

The Millennium Project ranked No. 23 for best new idea or paradigm by a think tank. It also ranked No. 48 for Best Quality Assurance and Integrity Policies and Procedures, a category it shares with RAND (No. 1), Brookings (No. 3), the Wilson Center (No. 22), Heritage Foundation (No. 45), Pew Research Center (No. 47), and the Hudson Institute (No. 58).

Pew Research Center comes in as the No. 23 U.S. think tank, down slightly from last year (No. 19).

RAND Corporation, the No. 9 think tank worldwide, was also No. 6 in the United States, No. 3 in defense and national security, No. 4 in education, No. 4 in domestic health policy, No. 5 in science and technology, No. 6 in social policy, No. 7 in global health policy, No. 7 in energy and resource policy, No. 9 in international economics, No. 11 in foreign policy and international affairs, No. 16 in domestic economic policy, No. 25 in international development, and No. 32 in environment policy.

Resources for the Future earned the top spot for best new idea or paradigm developed by a think tank; it was also ranked the No. 22 U.S. think tank, No. 6 in energy and resource policy, and No. 8 in environmental policy.

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the No. 11 think tank worldwide and No. 5 in the United States, was also No. 5 in international development, No. 8 in foreign policy and international affairs, No. 30 in global health policy, No. 32 in defense and national security, and No. 79 in international economics.

World Resources Institute, No. 151 think tank worldwide and No. 16 in the United States, was also No. 3 in environment policy, No. 13 in energy and resources, and No. 53 for best new idea or paradigm.

Worldwatch Institute is ranked No. 38 U.S. think tank and No. 6 in environment policy.

Comment: Note that the 2017 list of think tanks with the most significant impact on public policy (table 46) places the conservative Heritage Foundation above liberal-leaning Brookings (No. 1 and No. 2 respectively), yet lower in every other category the two neighboring D.C. institutions share—with the exception of think tanks to watch in 2018. Notably, Heritage ranked No. 2 in best advocacy campaign, a category in which Brookings is not included.

I am reminded of the futurist whose forecasts and warnings go unheeded because, the client claims, “You didn’t grab me by the lapels.” Whether or not advocacy is part of a think tank’s mission, outreach is critical for getting any message across. The Global Go To Think Tank Index’s rankings for best advocacy campaign, study or report, conference, use of social networks, and public engagement programs are thus categories to which it’s worth paying attention (and aspiring). —CGW

Learn more at TTCSP or download the report (PDF).

Mark Your Calendar

March 1: World Future Day. In Iran, World Futures Studies Federation Director Victor Vahidi Motti is organizing a symposium at the University of Isfahan focusing on the future of work. Topics will include education for jobs in the next 30 years, what skills will be needed, high-tech entrepreneurship and bringing ideas to market, and knowledge-based wealth creation. Learn more at futurism.ir.

The Millennium Project is planning another 24-hour global virtual conference for World Future Day, inviting facilitators to be available for an hour in their time own zones from noon to 1 p.m. Contact Jerome.Glenn@Millennium-Project.org or participate in a Google hangout on March 1 at that hour in your time zone.

April 29-30, Boston. Grappling with the Futures: Insights from Philosophy, History, and Science, Technology and Society is an international symposium hosted by Harvard University’s Department of the History of Science and Boston University’s Department of Philosophy. The event is co-sponsored by The Millennium Project, the Mellon Foundation and Boston University Center for Philosophy and History of Science, and Institute for Contemporary History Munich-Berlin. Learn more or register at the symposium website.

Call for Proposals: Global Social Economy Forum

The Global Social Economy Forum, to be held October 1-3 at the Euskalduna Conference Center in Bilbao, will focus on “values and competitiveness for an inclusive and sustainable local development,” bringing together regional and local governments, social economy agents, civil society, universities, and social organizations. Forum organizers seek proposals on the future of work and related topics. Please submit proposals via the forum website before February 28.

New Publications and Resources

Foresight Manual: Empowered Futures for the 2030 Agenda from the United Nations Development Program’s Global Center for Public Service Excellence offers strategies for applying foresight analysis to meeting sustainable development goals.

Futures Thinking Playbook is a new resource for teaching futures techniques to young people. Developed and produced by Teach the Future, led by Deputy Director Katie King, for use in the organization’s Summer of Futures program, the book provides guided exercises for understanding trends and stimulating imagination for envisioning and shaping the world of tomorrow.

Foresight Strategies Show is a weekly Facebook livestream and podcast featuring interviews with futures practitioners such as Jim Lee of Strategic Foresight Investments and Jay Gary, chair of the Association of Professional Futurists. Co-host Nilda Perez is president and CEO of the Foresight Strategies Group.

Call for Papers: Foresight Signals

The Foresight Signals Blog seeks articles, essays, book reviews, and other submissions on topics of general interest to the futurist and foresight community. Ideally the text should be no longer than 3,000 words and include links to references, a brief abstract, “about the author” note, and contact information. Longer papers focused on futures methodology and applications may also be considered for AAI Foresight’s Foresight Reports series. Send submissions or queries to consulting editor Cindy Wagner, CynthiaGWagner@gmail.com.