Representatives from 59 think tanks across the continent convened at the first-ever North American Think Tank Summit, organized by Penn's Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, in Washington, D.C.
Approximately 70 representatives from 41 American, seven Canadian and eight Mexican think tanks attended to discuss problems that think tanks are facing on the continent today, such as adapting to new forms of media and technology.
The summit marked the last in the series of think tank summits TTCSP has organized this year. It followed the first-ever African think tank summit, which took place in February, and a European summit, which happened over spring break.
The summit provided North American think tanks with a "sheer sense" of the challenges they all share, despite the substantial differences in political and cultural systems in which they work, TTCSP Director James McGann said.
At the summit, think tanks agreed to work on the issue of transparency and how it can impact the accessibility of think tank funding. They also aim to develop a specific set of recommendations on how to improve relationships between think tanks and donors.
Think tanks also agreed on the need to diversify their staff, in both racial and ethnic diversity, as well as in the range of skills employees have, McGann said.
The summit began with a keynote address on Wednesday evening from Susan B. Glasser, editor of POLITICO magazine at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Glasser addressed the key issue of how think tanks can reach their audiences through media and technology. Her primary message was that quality is key and that think tanks "must find the means of communication that is most ideal for them," College senior and TTCSP intern Fadwa Kingsbury said.
The theme of social media was carried over into Thursday's discussions too, which took place at the Brookings Institution . Think tank representatives talked about using Twitter to promote the research conducted by think tanks.
After morning talks about why think tanks matter and how they can balance advocacy and research, representatives split into small groups in the afternoon for "more intimate discussions" about specific topics, Kingsbury said. These included communication, sustainability and recruitment.
The biggest thing that came out of the conference was the understanding that "they're all facing the same issues," College senior and TTCSP intern Rachel Ascoli said.
The summit concluded with plans for an agenda for next year's conference, as think tank representatives plan to make this an annual event.
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