OpenPolicyResearch.com is an ongoing study of the communication strategies of Think Tanks located in Washington, DC, with special attention to how transparency and accountability are defined, implemented and measured. This project is the initiative of Jaime Gonzalez-Capitel, a Spanish Fulbrighter sponsored by the Spanish Fulbright Alumni Association, and for that reason it is fundamentally conceived from the perspective of comparative studies.
With about 550 Think Tanks located in the District of Columbia and the surrounding region*, this is the perfect environment to start drawing conclusions about what it means for a policy research organization to be transparent, accountable and open, and what are the different paths that can be explored with these values in mind.
The general scope is very broad and has multiple ramifications into different interest areas, including but not limited to:
- Financial transparency and disclosure of donors
- Audience engagement, involvement and feedback cycles
- Openness of policy research output
The objective is to understand the state of the art in some of the most important research organizations that are influencing decision making and policy process in Washington, DC and share the results with the Spanish community of policy research organizations, political scientists and advocates for informed and inclusive reform.
What will you find in this blog?
As with every research project, many milestones have to be completed before a robust output is chiseled out of the subject. Rather than presenting ultimate, contrasted results, this blog will be, especially at the beginning stages, the site of an ongoing exploration around the subject of open policy research. Beyond and before a final deliverable in the form of a report or Thesis, the blog will be populated by book reviews, reflections, analysis of organizations, side projects and even off-topic articles –provided that they somehow contribute to the subject. News and analysis about Spanish Think Tanks will also have a prominent place: indeed, the idea behind the project is that evidence-based policy research in Spain could benefit from a comparative approach with the DC “scene”.
How is this project different to Transparify?
Transparify has recently released their first transparency rating of global Think Tanks, which they will update every year. In their own words, the Transparify team has recently found “that there is a great momentum towards transparency in the think tank community as a whole, especially in the United States”. There is an important overlapping of interests with Open Policy Research, and obviously I won’t be repeating the work done by them. However, I might work with them in the creation of a Spanish chapter of Transparify. Amongst other things, this side project would be useful as a contrast with the validity and usefulness of Transparify ratings when applied to a single-country analysis. If you’re curious, please stay tuned.
However, my analysis is not specifically an analysis on donor disclosure, as it will also focus on communication strategies and the different types of relations with different audiences. For that reason, much of the content in this blog will have to do with communication and organizational theory.
Who is behind the blog?
Jaime Gonzalez-Capitel is a graduate candidate at the Communication, Culture and Technology MA program in Georgetown University and a Spanish Fulbright Fellow sponsored by the Spanish Fulbright Alumni Association and supported by Fundacion Universidad-Empresa. Holder of BAs in Philosophy at Universidad Autonoma of Madrid and Translation and Interpreting at Universidad Pontificia Comillas, Jaime has worked as assistant Communications Officer at FUE with different knowledge management and community outreach responsibilities, ultimately specializing in nonprofit communication. His internship at Access Info Spain, a Madrid-based NGO specialized in the Right to Access Information, opened him the window to the issue of transparency and the troubled world of open data.
If you don’t agree that a Think Tank should be transparent, accountable and open, disagree with any other of my views or are not sure what these terms even mean, you’re welcome to throw in your thoughts on the subject and start a debate. This blog will be an attempt to portray my critical confrontations and debates with scholars, organizations and theories around the subject, and I do hope to engage people both in favor and against my proposals. Feel free to either drop a comment in the reply section or write me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
*According to Andrew Selee´s tally of the Go to Think Tank Index 2012 report (see reference section, currently under preparation)