February 5, 2014―The problems developing countries face are increasingly complex to address. The Government of Nigeria, for instance, is committed to extending the coverage of drinking water to all its citizens. This is a daunting challenge that financing alone, irrespective of how much money is mobilized, will not address. Powerful vested interests, deep differences of views between various layers of the administration, a web of often conflicting laws and regulations, mistrust in the private sector, and its potential contribution to solving this problem all hinder a quick resolution to this problem. The World Bank Institute (WBI) has been working with Nigeria and other countries to help them strengthen change agents, build consensus for reforms, mobilize stakeholders in parliament, regional and local governments, the private sector and civil society, and leverage practical knowledge from countries where similar solutions have been successfully deployed. Through the knowledge generated by such practices, WBI has been promoting a laboratory of innovative solutions for development, creating space for experimentation and practical learning in many sectors.
The result of this work has recently been recognized for the second consecutive year, in the Global Think Tank Index report conducted by University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Society Program (TTSCP), which has ranked WBI as the number one Best Government Affiliated Think Tank. It is the result of an international survey of more than 1,950 scholars, public and private donors, policy makers, and journalists who helped rank more than 6,500 think tanks.
“Our initial effort to generate a ranking of the world’s leading think tanks developed from a series of requests from donors and journalists to produce national, regional, and international lists of the preeminent think tanks. Our ongoing efforts with respect to the rankings are now defined by our drive to understand the role of think tanks in governments and civil societies globally, so that we can help to improve their capacity and performance” said James McGann, Director of TTCSP.
WBI has been supporting the World Bank’s operational work as well as its country clients by forging new dynamic approaches to development.
The rankings’ primary objective is to recognize some of the world’s leading public policy think tanks and highlight the notable contributions these institutions are making to governments and civil societies worldwide. Some of the criteria to establish the ranking are related to the institutional ability to bridge the gap between the academic and policymaking communities, the ability to bridge the gap between policymakers and the public including new voices in the policymaking process and the success in challenging the traditional wisdom of policymakers, and in generating innovative policy ideas and programs.
This recognition highlights the value of working in partnerships in learning and knowledge. The World Bank has a strong commitment to this approach and as result of that for example, in partnership with Coursera, a leading provider of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), will give people across the globe easier access to valuable, evidence-based knowledge on complex development problems. Working together with 91 educational institutions across four continents, Coursera now offers more than 450 free online college-level courses to 5 million students around the world. The World Bank Group’s first MOOC focusing on climate change was just launched in January 2012.
WBI’s multi-country and multi-stakeholder approach also provides a platform for policy makers and practitioners to learn from the experiences of others who face similar challenges, and to use this knowledge to find solutions to their own development needs. Budget data that is open and easy-to-read allows people to know how and where governments spend their money, and can be used by citizens, civil society, parliamentarians, and the media to participate in government’s decision-making around budgets to help make them more responsive to peoples’ needs. WBI recently launched the Open Budgets Portal, a visually compelling tool that showcases high-quality expenditure data. The 13 countries and state governments, that are initially on the portal are, Armenia, Guatemala, Kenya, Kiribati, Minas Gerais state (Brazil), Moldova, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Rio Grande do Sul state (Brazil), Seychelles, Solomon Islands, and Togo.
Increasingly, sharing knowledge and learning from experiences, strong leadership and innovative solutions play a key role in planning public policy. And governments require support to meet this challenge. WBI, while not a traditional think tank, has been playing a key role in helping clients access the knowledge and tools they need to develop innovative solutions to more effectively fight poverty and promote prosperity.
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