Hewlett and Partners Support
Think Tanks in the Developing World

Despite their regular appearance in the news, grantmaking foundations remain something of a mystery to most people, surveys show. Recently the Hewlett Foundation newsletter took a look at some of the many forms foundation work can take. Here’s one. To see the others, click here.

Foundation grantmaking can be an effective way to transform weak or underfunded social institutions into robust ones. A case in point is research centers in the developing world.

Such centers can be a critical source of information that governments need to enact sound policy, but many remain weak and underfunded in the developing world. The causes are many. Visiting researchers trained in the developed world may be reluctant to return home to a lack of financial support or strong local institutions needed to build their careers. The international aid community inadvertently compounds this situation by commissioning projects that support researchers but do nothing to build institutions.

To respond to these problems, the Hewlett Foundation approved a ten-year, $100 million initiative to strengthen independent research centers in the developing world. The goal is to support high-quality research that developing countries can use to formulate national policies. The initiative currently supports these centers in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.

To carry out the initiative, the Foundation is working in partnership with the International Development Research Centre, a quasi-public Canadian agency with forty years of experience supporting research on development, which will manage the work, as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the development agencies of the Netherlands and Great Britain. All are making financial commitments to augment Hewlett’s. The initiative is currently supporting think tanks in East and West Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.

In launching this project, the partners are inviting other international donors to join with them to create a pooled fund that would expand support to local think tanks throughout the developing world.