Assessment of the Think Tank Fund’s Grants to the Economic Research Center
This paper reports the results of an assessment the Economic Research Center’s (ERC) use of three years’ of institutional support provided by the Think Tank Fund (TTF) during 2006-2009. This is an ex post assessment that relies on a substantial amount of background material provided to the consultant, information on the ERC web site, responses to a questionnaire sent to ERC for completion prior to the consultant’s Baku visit, critically reading and rating ERC policy research reports and shorter papers, and interviews with ERC management, staff, and Board members, and members of the policy community during an eight day visit to Baku. Within the policy community the consultant met with seven persons in the international community, staff of two NGOs, and three government officials. Those interviewed were selected by ERC and the Center arranged the meetings.
Major findings include that the Azeri policy community certainly views ERC as a successful contributor to the country’s policy development, perhaps the single most successful civil society contributor. In an extremely difficult political environment it has succeeded in having its work taken seriously, even if government officials are unlikely to acknowledge its work explicitly. As one respondent stated, “ERC has played a huge role as a model of other think tanks to show that they can survive and it has demonstrated how to work with government.” The TTF’s support for the public relations and external communications functions certainly appear to have contributed to ERC’s “strong brand” and the high quality of its dissemination program.