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Global Go To Think Tank Index (GGTTI) 2020 launched                    111,75 Think Tanks across the world ranked in different categories.                SDPI is ranked 90th among “Top Think Tanks Worldwide (non-US)”.           SDPI stands 11th among Top Think Tanks in South & South East Asia & the Pacific (excluding India).            SDPI notches 33rd position in “Best New Idea or Paradigm Developed by A Think Tank” category.                SDPI remains 42nd in “Best Quality Assurance and Integrity Policies and Procedure” category.              SDPI stands 49th in “Think Tank to Watch in 2020”.            SDPI gets 52nd position among “Best Independent Think Tanks”.                           SDPI becomes 63rd in “Best Advocacy Campaign” category.                   SDPI secures 60th position in “Best Institutional Collaboration Involving Two or More Think Tanks” category.                       SDPI obtains 64th position in “Best Use of Media (Print & Electronic)” category.               SDPI gains 66th position in “Top Environment Policy Tink Tanks” category.                SDPI achieves 76th position in “Think Tanks With Best External Relations/Public Engagement Program” category.                    SDPI notches 99th position in “Top Social Policy Think Tanks”.            SDPI wins 140th position among “Top Domestic Economic Policy Think Tanks”.               SDPI is placed among special non-ranked category of Think Tanks – “Best Policy and Institutional Response to COVID-19”.                                            Owing to COVID-19 outbreak, SDPI staff is working from home from 9am to 5pm five days a week. All our staff members are available on phone, email and/or any other digital/electronic modes of communication during our usual official hours. You can also find all our work related to COVID-19 in orange entries in our publications section below.    The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) is pleased to announce its Twenty-third Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) from 14 – 17 December 2020 in Islamabad, Pakistan. The overarching theme of this year’s Conference is Sustainable Development in the Times of COVID-19. Read more…       FOOD SECIRITY DASHBOARD: On 4th Nov, SDPI has shared the first prototype of Food Security Dashboard with Dr Moeed Yousaf, the Special Assistant to Prime Minister on  National Security and Economic Outreach in the presence of stakeholders, including Ministry of National Food Security and Research. Provincial and district authorities attended the event in person or through zoom. The dashboard will help the government monitor and regulate the supply chain of essential food commodities.

Connecting evidence to policy: seven key lessons for researchers
By: Dr. Vaqar Ahmed
These are times in which data and facts are less respected, and where emotions and populist messages tend to dominate. For researchers living in this age, perhaps the most important goal is to position themselves in a manner that their evidence doesn’t get ridiculed. They need to give a message that has policy relevance but also resonates with the core values of humanity.
I will be candid here. In our experience at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) of managing several policy engagement programs – ranging from redistributive tax policy to social enterprises for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – most researchers remain bystanders. Either they do not have the incentives to make that extra effort and engage with a wide array of policy-makers, or they don’t have the capacity.
This column will not talk about bystanders. I am interested in talking to researchers who are willing to engage. They may make mistakes, but they are willing to adjust their approach to engagement.
For this group of researchers, SDPI can offer a few messages. Again, this may not be the perfect advice, but these are just some lessons from our recent engagements with policy-makers in Pakistan.
1. Don’t just offer recommendations: accompany policy-makers on the reform journey
On most occasions, policy-makers are not interested in being students. Frankly, their jobs don’t allow time. But most of them appreciate it if you are easily available, and if you can engage over the medium to longer-term, often on a pro bono basis. Of course, not all researchers will be able to do so, but this can make a difference if you wish to ensure that your ideas penetrate the boardroom and cabinet huddles.
2. Learn to think in terms of political costs and benefits
When was the last time you read the governing party’s manifesto? If you wish to secure face time with politicians, you need to find entry points in that document. You may even need to anchor your advice in their election-time commitments – just to gain traction, which could eventually buy you time with them. The goals described in the manifesto are sacred to them: build on this, even if you aim to diverge later.
3. Rethink capacity-building
Can training civil servants in ‘evidence uptake’ result in improved policy-making? At SDPI, our experience suggests no direct correlation. We have run hundreds of such capacity-building sessions. Based on these meetings, let me offer a reality check: often the person who gets nominated for training is the idlest. The person with real power is too important to spend time on them. But if the real policy-maker won’t show up, what can be done to attract their interest?
SDPI recently combined personal development lessons with an evidence uptake discussion. We made it more about how smart knowledge could make you a smarter policy-maker. The linkage was hard to construct in the beginning, but by the end, participants went away with the feeling that they needed to put aside some time for forced learning, to make their thinking clearer.
4. Understand the policy-makers attention span
At SDPI, we are helping a key decision-maker in national-level tax reform. Each time we use WhatsApp to alert him to a piece of evidence, he demands a five-line summary and no more. I don’t blame him: in this era of information overload, policy-makers are justified in requiring succinct messages.
Researchers need to see themselves as policy entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are in the business of selling, and you are trying to sell policy choices. On most occasions, you do not have the liberty of several months to package your advice. You have to communicate promptly, and the messaging should sound like this is the idea whose time has come.
5. Learn how to demand respect for evidence
It now takes almost zero cost to engage with politicians. The policy briefs, one-pagers, and op-eds are tools from the past. They are only effective if supplemented by several social media feeds. Use Twitter – and recognize that even tweeting has limitations; in which case, use Instagram: a picture often speaks louder than words. Promote innovative use of data: visuals that help your argument can be most effective. Post, re-post and request other ‘thought leaders’ to share your social media content.
6. ‘Policy-makers’ doesn’t just mean politicians
As a policy entrepreneur, you are expected to understand not just your subject area, but also how the ecosystem of public policy is configured in your country. Parliament or politicians will be only one part of the story. Policy-making exercises involve an extensive role for civil servants, the judiciary, ombudsman offices, bar associations, and several other institutions. Even covering all these bases is usually not enough. Within the executive branch, the hardest thing to ensure is inter-agency coordination. Even if you can get on top of this, you will still find frequent turnover of civil servants.
7. The golden rule
Find champions within the system, and work with them for a lifetime. Make these champions a hero; give them profile; let them take the credit, as credit in itself is a big motivation for them to move, to think, to act, and eventually to lead change.

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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.