What is a think tank and what do people who work there actually do?
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What’s the best way to bring more jobs to a city, to raise wages in a historically low-paid town or improve the quality of housing? Questions like these are just a small sample of the kind of issues discussed by think tanks – public policy research institutions. The organisations work in every field imaginable, from economics, education, health and housing to social justice, migration, transport, farming, animal welfare, and more recently, Brexit. Enter new player the Institute For Free Trade, which is being launched at an event in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office hosted by Boris Johnson. But what do think tanks really do? There are more than 6,500 think tanks in the world, according to the University of Pennsylvania, which maintains a directory. Once a think tank has a policy proposal it will want to share that message with decision makers in the hope it is taken up as local council or government policy. But how it determines that policy depends on the individual think tank. The Economist included an explainer of a think tank in its Go Figure segment, stating: “A good think tank helps the policymaking process by publishing reports that are as rigorous as academic research and as accessible as journalism. (Bad ones have a knack of doing just the opposite.)” What does the mean in practice? Brian Semple works as head of communications for the urban economic think tank Centre For Cities. It looks at factors that lead to economic prosperity in the hope of replicating similar success in other parts of the UK. “We are led by our research. Any time we have an idea or a solution we put that into a report then we’re sharing it, talking to local government, having meetings with civil servants in Treasury, in Department for Business. “Those relationships are really important to get our message across to people who will make decisions.
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