The Centre for European Reform with the Think Tank of the Year Award (and winner’s tank top)

Think Tank Awards: results 2018

All the winners from our biggest and broadest annual contest yet
August 15, 2018

The global landscape is riven by fracturing alliances and waning friendships. The post-war international architecture is under threat, and the spirit of multilateralism is in decline. We have the White House picking trade wars with a rising, insular China, as an enfeebled EU looks on. Brexit is a particularly poignant example of the old order unravelling.

In such mercurial, and sometimes frightening times, fraught international relations can soon descend from the high politics of diplomacy, which a few think tanks specialise in, to the day-to-day grind and graft of domestic public policy, which occupies the great bulk of them. From the geopolitical drama of Brexit one day, to worrying about new technologies that might speed up customs checks on dairy products at the Irish border, the next.

All of this ensures that think tanks everywhere have much work to do. And this year, for the first time, in appraising their work, Prospect took entries from right around the world. This made for the largest ever awards ceremony, with the results adjudicated by a stellar panel of judges including diplomats, journalists and scholars. In recognition of what the best think tanks do for the public realm, we’ve also introduced new tie-break criteria—so that, in the case of two tanks being closely matched on points, a strong record on transparency in funding or in training the next generation of researchers can be taken into account.


International Awards

Prospect’s awards have long covered Europe and America, but this year, for the first time, we have taken entries and honoured institutions from across the whole planet. In the Economic Category, the UN University World Institute for Development Economics was commended for its work on often strikingly successful Asian industrial strategies. Libertad y Progreso from Argentina was the runner-up, for its “clear and accessible work” on the folly of protectionism. But the winner this year was the African Center for Economic Transformation, for its exceptional work on knitting agricultural and industrial strategy together.

In Social Policy, the Carnegie Middle East Center was hailed for data and recommendations based on the experiences of Syrian refugees. Observer Research Foundation, from India, did “excellent” work on healthcare, housing, food and water provision, and emerged as runner-up. But the winner was the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, which matched “top-class research” with “plausible policy prescriptions.”

The same Afghan outfit also scored well in our International Energy & Environment category, for its work on opium poppy cultivation. The Council on Energy, Environment and Water, an Indian think tank, was the runner-up. It looked at electricity and healthcare in rural Chhattisgarh where, chillingly, 90 per cent of state clinics experienced power cuts. But the winner was the Beyond Zero Emissions from Australia, for its work on cement production. That industry causes 8 per cent of global greenhouse emissions, more than all the world’s cars put together.

In the Global Affairs category, the Observer Research Foundation impressed judges. So did the Brazil-based Igarapé Institute, which was runner-up for its campaign to reduce murder rates in the seven most homicidal countries in the world—all in Latin America. But the winner was the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, which has created “a useful conduit for a large body of Chinese academics to interface with their global counterparts,” and speak frankly—an invaluable service.


EU Awards

In the Financial and Economic category, Bruegel did strong work on the need to strengthen EU leadership structures, and emerged as runner-up. But this year’s winner was Transparency International for its work on whistleblowing—a subject of great significance for the financial services sector, for financial stability and also government. In Social Policy, Transparency International again impressed with its work on corruption, and the panel was also taken with the European Centre for International Political Economy, who emerged as runner-up. Its “Digital Trade Restrictiveness Index” was judged “an outstanding innovative contribution.” But the winner was Katalys, for “topical,” “comprehensive” and “practical” efforts to grapple with integration, inequality and pensions.

The energy category was extremely competitive, with a tie between two outstanding tanks: the Centre for European Policy Studies and the Fridtjof Nansen Institute. Nansen had, one judge noted, “a strong impact on Norwegian policy” and “a depth of expertise, backed up by interdisciplinary intellectual rigour.” As for CEPS, it was rated as having a “strong impact” on policy, with ideas of “very wide significance.” But there could be only one winner, and Fridtjof Nansen’s record in fostering scholars, along with its transparency on funding, just gave it the edge.

In the international area, the Casimir Pulaski Foundation’s wargaming and analysis impressed, as did Carnegie Europe who emerged as runner-up, not least for “dissecting” “Turkey’s march to autocracy.” But the winner was the Centre for European Policy Studies, which one judge said, “has been at or near the top of its field for many years,” and known “for its incisive, innovative and independent research and writing.”


North America Awards

In the Economic and Financial field, The Economic Innovation Group was commended and emerged as runner-up, for analysis of US business and society. But the winner was the Peterson Institute, who did excellent work on the eurozone. “Some of these ideas,” wrote one judge, “will almost certainly make an appearance if the political will can be found.” In Social Policy, the RAND Corporation was rated as runner-up because of its cool-headed work in the fraught field of gun policy. But the winner was the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, a Canadian think tank, whose analysis of crime was “tight,” “focused” and gave rise to “ambitious yet do-able proposals.”

For Energy and the Environment, the Stimson Center was picked out as runner-up for highlighting the strain put on the world’s fisheries. But the winner was the Global Carbon Project for its excellent work on emissions and climate change.

In the International category, New America was saluted for work that drew on documents spirited out of Syria to make sense of Islamic State, work one judge called “one of the most ambitious entries in the entire competition.” The RAND Corporation was runner-up for its compelling and timely output on “Truth Decay.” But the winner this year was the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which did outstanding work on Russia—“as impressive as anything in the competition,” our judges said.


UK Awards 

In Economic and Financial, the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) has, one judge said, “carved themselves out a strong niche” for work on financial crime and sanctions. The Centre for European Reform was also picked out for its work on the economic trouble brewing in Britain’s relations with the continent. The runner-up was the Institute for Fiscal Studies, for what one judge called its “clear and cogent analysis.” But the winner was the Institute for Government (IfG), which, one judge noted have newly “established themselves as a serious source of analysis for budgetary matters and Brexit,” with connections in the heart of Whitehall that help them get real “traction in government.”

In the Social Policy area, the Fabians have done “very influential work,” on the justice system, while Bright Blue has also had a good year. The IfG was runner-up but the winner was the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, with its unstinting focus on poverty, and its particular efforts to recast the way it is discussed.

In the Energy and the Environment category, Chatham House impressed on food security and was runner-up. But the winner was Policy Exchange which, this year, one judge said, “paid particular attention to the economic drivers behind effective environmental policies, especially energy policies, and demonstrated impressive convening power” as well as grabbing media attention.

In the international section, the Centre for European Reform was impressive. Rusi, the runner-up, was strong on Russia and its land forces, but the winner was the UK in a Changing Europe, which one judge called “very impressive and substantial,” adding pointedly that their output was “far more authoritative and substantial than government policy.”


One to Watch

The Vuelio “One to Watch” award, for an innovative tank on the up, went to an organisation from South America that is confronting the deepest societal problems in the most challenging of urban environments, and doing so with imagination and technical verve. That organisation was the Igarapé Institute of Brazil.


Think Tank of the Year

And the winner this year stood out as uniquely timely in this hour for its determination to keep the Brexit debate grounded in analysis and fact rather than emotion and bluster. That think tank was the Centre for European Reform.

The Awards were supported by Tata. Thanks also to Vuelio, Funding Circle, the Financial Inclusion Commission, Octopus Energy and Associated British Ports