The term ‘think tank’ is used to describe a wide range of research organizations that undertake public policy research and analysis and intend to influence policy dialogues and advocate policy solutions. Some are strictly non-partisan, researching policy issues without regard to partisan political outcomes, while others see one of their main functions as providing intellectual support to political parties and legislators. For most of the 20th Century, think tanks were primarily found in the United States; with a much smaller number in Canada, Australasia and Western Europe. However, there has been a proliferation of think tanks across the globe (since the 1970s).
In line with current research trends, which are increasingly focussed on think tank development beyond members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the aim of this chapter is to explore a number of hypotheses that explain think tank development in different regional and national contexts in the developing world. In so doing, we assess the linkages think tanks have with national (and local) political processes and actors, including their donors; and consider the implications of these on their research priorities, policy messages and policy influencing channels. We also explore the extent to which the supply of policy research at the national level is satisfying demand for knowledge from policymakers.