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Think tanks are interest groups that pursue research and analysis to advance a set of values or ideas, often through political action and policy change, as well as through cultural and social influence. Some think tanks are truly non-partisan, regularly working with administrations of both main US political parties (we label them “centrist” in the list below), while others self-identify as non-partisan despite evidence to the contrary (we reserve the right to exercise our own judgment about such cases), and still others are explicitly or tacitly conservative, neo-conservative, libertarian, centrist, liberal, progressive, or socialist.
Some think tanks focus on domestic policy and some on foreign policy. Some pursue free-market capitalism and limited government, while others argue for increased taxes and social welfare spending. Still others debate revolution or monitor the growth of liberation movements in foreign countries. They wield influence by publishing reports and books, developing research tools, running media campaigns, holding events and conferences, directing lobbying action, and enlisting high-ranking and well-connected members. Some are broadly transparent about their sources of funding and support, while others are quite guarded about this information.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, think tanks have influenced your life and worldview. They do this through policy measures they help enact into law, through the media they shape and you consume, and—perhaps most insidiously—through the language they invent and you use. While you might know the names of a few think tanks, many of them are unfamiliar to the general public, and have bland names that do little to enlighten the uninitiated about their goals or focus.
This list covers the 50 most-influential think tanks in the world today. If you wish to be an active, well-informed citizen, it’s important to better understand who these organizations are and how they’re influencing the world around you. You may even want to get involved working with—or against—one of them!
If you want to change the world you need power. Learn more from Stanford University professor Jefferey Pfeffer.
How to win power and influence by Stanford University Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer.