Think tanks – What are they and what are they for?

Corredor en Montería

Over a year ago, I received a call from Mr. Jairo Burgos de la Espriella, in which he shared with me his interest in designing and launching a think tank for the department of Córdoba and invited me to meet with others and begin this constructive dialogue.

I must confess that while from the onset I was interested in working on anything that contributes towards the well-being of my region, I did not understand very clearly what a think tank was, its purpose, or its daily undertakings. These same questions concerning this initiative are repeated among many of our friends, and among those who express their interest in participating and collaborating with “Atarraya”, our think tank in Córdoba. This is why we at “Atarraya” want to share with you, our readers and potential partners on this path we are undertaking, some basic concepts so we all have the same level of information available and consequently our impact on our region will be more effective impact. Hence the definition of “Atarraya[1]”, a network that is woven and grows with everybody’s contribution. (Atarraya is the Spanish term for a round cast net used in artisanal fishing)

To a greater or lesser extent, think tanks serve as bridges between the academic and intellectual sectors and the makers of public and private policies. There are those that focus more on debating ideas and those that focus more on policies, both to seek to improve society or to solve a specific problem. The technological revolution and the information explosion online have helped the recent creation of new think tanks, especially in developing countries. The crisis of trust in political establishments in some countries, the end of the State monopoly on public information, and globalization have also helped generate new think tanks.[1]

As spaces for reflection and to generate ideas, think tanks are conceived as entities independent of governmental domains and political or financial interests so as to open spaces where general interest converge, generating profound and practical ideas that can be legitimized by society. In this manner they are effective in strengthening the concept of community action because they stimulate the desire for self-improvement, encourage local initiatives, and are a true reflection of the power of civil society.[2]

Today “Atarraya” is a reality. We have a group of participants and partners that will allow us to identify and work on those issues where, as a department and region, we have great opportunities and challenges. There will always be common ground, such as education and health, but there are also opportunities that we have barely explored, such as our advantages as an export area of goods and services, or emerging challenges such as climate change or connectivity and their effects on our development. Our invitation is for you to be aware of our evolution, to be part of our initiatives, so that together we can contribute towards bequeathing a better department for future generations than the one we were given.

[1] Chamorro, J.S. (2016, 8 de Febrero) ¿Qué son y para qué sirven los Centros de Pensamiento? El Nuevo Diario. Nicaragua.  [2] Orly Vidal Correa, Guajira360o think tank.

Juan David Taboada

August 20, 2021


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