Professional standing of think tanks is tested through the management of strategic interactions with customers
When state authorities are too absorbed by their own internal dilemmas, think tanks shall wake up them. This cannot be done otherwise than increasing the impact of active NGOs over the population and public opinion. We can see a growing infrastructure of think tanks and CBOs in urban and rural areas in Moldova, but also of the role of the intermediary organizations (umbrella-organizations, resource centers etc.), information dissemination networks and interaction and coalition mechanisms. As a first step towards influencing state decisions, attempts to formulate action plans by sector and inter-sector strategies.Examples of active and efficient policy-based advocacy projects (NBA, human rights watch dogs, access to information, free and fair elections);Considerable potential of expertise, knowledge and positive commitment in some sectors for enhanced dialogue with state institutions on policy subjects;Diversifying the kinds of civic involvement: coalition-building, human rights monitoring and assistance provided to the individuals affected by abuses.
Useful and innovative ideas are disturbing sometimes to the donors, which prefer to have conventional approaches about their beneficiaries. Be prepared to get engaged fully, on behalf of your dreams and expected impact.
Overregulated business impede true development of the country, but unrestricted business may cause irreparable damage to the development agenda. Drive intelligent business people towards public goals that create sinergies and public wealth.
Weaknesses of the civil society can be easily exploited by bureaucracy-raptors, if the force of it is drained by individualistic organisations, with limited capacities to self-organisation and collective engagement.
Advocacy is a risk-taking enterprise particularly in the emerging and fragile democracies. Think tank’s influence is directly dependent on the type of political system, which implies a certain environment, more or less friendly with different political views. In countries where the executive and legislative powers are separated, the demand for policy advice – influence of think tanks – is more likely to be high, since separation of power provides for ‘many possible sources of policy formulation that have a chance of having their ideas adopted’. Dissemination of think tanks products and ideas is welcomed and incorporated in the public governance standards. In a non-democratic society, think tanks are ‘anti-statal elements’, interdictions, if not of well-organized campaigns in the state-owned media.
1. LEGITIMACY, EFFICIENCY AND INTEGRITY OF ADVOCACY: MOLDOVA’S EXPERIENCE Igor Munteanu, IDIS<br />
2. IDIS: Institutional Aims:<br /><ul><li>IDIS is a think tank, operating since 1996 as a nonprofit, nonpartisan Institute that is focused on research, policy analysis and public outreach.
3. IDIS target beneficiaries include: private business, municipal governments, central governmental agencies, think tanks, academia, and mass media. IDIS is connected to international networks (PASOS, EPIN, NISPAcee), based on professional links and policy standards.
4. IDIS has a special focus on Democratic Governance (30%), Private business, Competitiveness, Property rights (30%), 20% - goes to democratic development , with the remainder divided between Good Governance (10%), and public education/outreach (10% each).
5. Most vocal advocacy campaigns: Address the issue of ‘unofficial taxation’ as a peril to the regulatory business framework, discourage political clientele on private business. Since 2007, IDIS launched NBA facilitating mobilization of the business associations in Moldova, to define, express and advocate a National Business Agenda (2009).</li></li></ul><li>Advocacy is a key element in what we do as a policy center in Moldova and this is the main instrument in advocating our values and policy expertise. Advocacy allows us to increase public pressures on policies and services provided by public authorities in the relevant areas. Effectiveness of think tanks is proportional to the influence they have on one or another policy decision. Our main lessons on Advocacy are the following:<br />
6. Complex interactions between the main actors<br />business<br />State<br />Civil society<br />Church<br />
7. NGOs and State<br />
8. NGOs and Donors<br />
9. NGOs and business<br />
10. To be or to pretend to be<br />
11. Thinking for Actors or acting on behalf of Thinkers<br />
12. What kind of think tank we are?<br />As a Think Tank, IDIS runs:- Training and Consultancy Services to the Municipal Governments in Moldova- Economic Analysis and Forecasts (Quarterly Economic Statewatch) – www.viitorul.org- Impact Analysis of the main regulatory reforms through a Public Policy Studies Series- Elaboration, assessment and enforcement of a Decentralization Roadmap in Moldova- Early Warning Reports (EWr) focused on foreign and domestic policies.IDIS divides its resources and time more or less on proportional shares between: policy-analysis, advocacy, fundamental research and training (20% each), with the reminder invested into media outreach and private consulting (10% each). With the recent change in government, we expanded by 30% our consultancy share to the governmental bodies.But, we see ourselves also as a Do - Thankto improve, update and positively influence the policy-making process educate the targeted audiences (publics) through a well-managed media campaigncaring out flagship initiatives, such as – National Business Agenda, Roadmap for Decentralization, Roadmap for National Reconciliation and European Integration<br />
13. Example of Advocacy – MOBILIZING A NATIONAL BUSINESS AGENDA IN MOLDOVA <br />Pre-advocacy preparation – Unofficial taxes in Moldova, payments recruited from business by former ruling party. Precise description of abusive practices, performed by state authorities. Heavy public pressures on Government, rising up curiousity, then support. <br />October 2008, NBA launched as a consensus document on priorities for economic growth and modernization, signed up by 26 associations of business, including Confederation of Employees (Patronate) supported the NBA. Building up partnerships with business. First, diagnosis of associations, then design supportive programs, strengthening their institutional capacities. <br />Targeted capacity-building training for individual Associations of Business. <br />At the request of business associations, IDIS shared its expertise in a wide range of policy fields (subsidies in agriculture, policy incentives to export-oriented producers, tax flat, insurance, access to finances, taxation), which thus represent a viable format of interaction between the think tank community and business corporative bodies. <br />At the end of 2009/2010, IDIS facilitated dialogue of the business associations and governmental bodies on urgent issues, related to the de-monopolization of the economy, simplification of the regulatory acts, as well as access to finance, restitution of VAT, etc.<br />Business Associations used NBA format to: <br />– consulting newly established Government of Moldova on Stabilization and Recovery Plan, expressing the policy response to global crisis impact on the national economy<br />- Design and discuss recommendations to the national government on matters affected by crisis in Moldova<br />– Position Papers (on exports and reduce administrative barriers, on measures to redress situation of construction industry, and access to finances).<br />
14. How the NBA as an advocacy process evolved?<br />Our Advocacy Strategy of NBA evolved on the basis of the following principles:<br />Prudent approach: Careful diagnosis of the existing constraints and strengths of the business environment. Investing in Membership, and not in the bureaucracies of business. The most active supporters of the NBA were Business Associations that represent the interests of business.<br />Philosophy of the NBA: IDIS promoted it (NBA) not as a project, but as a long-term advocacy initiative, whose main promoters were business leaders, and their constituencies, and not the experts. The ultimate aim of the NBA was to engage, and not impose, to advocate and not lobby.<br />Recycle previous experiences: Lots of technical assistance projects previously implemented, without specific or sustainable results. Business associations were seen only as vehicles of these projects, and not in terms of their merits and ambitions. We considered the best heritage and innovations from the previous USAID, Amcham, WB.<br />Quality, not quantity: We never aimed to sky-rocket the number of connected people or business associations. We avoided the temptation to ‘sell’ the brand to the incumbent Government, for illusory benefits, forcing other actors to treat the NBA with due respect, diligent attention, and inclusive partnerships. Concentrated attention on media coverage, key-words, associated with the NBA, and sparing partners, from the respected expert community, ex-officials.<br />Integrity standards nurture public recognition: Standing for principles, not for confort pays back soon by increasing the reputation of the organisation, its cohesion and value-based choices.<br />
15. What we have learned through advocacy?<br />Think tanks are not made for never-ending abstract reflections. They can definitely improve their policy – approaches by effective mobilization of stakeholders and customers of their policy topics. <br />Cooperation of Think tanks and business is mutual. <br />For instance, IDIS got a great basis of facts and evidences on taxation, critical vulnerabilities of the SMEs behavior during crisis, impact of the change of state policies on business, which have finally influenced the quality of our policy analysis and targeted expertise. We received extremely valuable contributions from the business on the GDP calculation, on Fiscal and Custom Policy Evaluation, on IT and Social policies (salary rates, flat tax, social benefits, etc)<br />Interactive and trustful cooperation: Many outstanding Business Associations appeared to be poorly prepared to define and promote their corporative interests, having limited (if any!) internal capacities for complex analysis, or cross-sectoral studies. As a result, there is a high demand for quality analysis and evaluations. <br />In 2010, NBA working groups served excellently for the Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Finance in Moldova to consult business on the upcoming policy decisions on budgetary support to SMEs, custom affairs and export promotion strategy, and decisively influenced the Anti-Crisis/Recovery Plan, proposed by the Government (2/3 of proposals originated in the NBA Working Groups). This allows NBA to step up as well-articulated and foresighted platform for constructive discussions on various issues of private entrepreneurship, and political authorities.<br />Long-term challenge: creation of a modern business-infrastructure in Moldova. Already today, the associations of local producers, IT companies, brokering, etc, see NBA as an excellent venue for getting the right agenda, and be part of the NBA initiative, meaning to be in the focus of public affairs. <br />
16. The formula of our success in Moldova<br /> Seconding business in a NBA process is an effort that need real muscles (representative number and reputation of associations joining the pioneer group), but also brains (strong arguments, negotiations, and solidarity).In a non-democratic regime, business is marginal, and exploited as a tax-payer, in a democratic regime, citizens request value of services provided by the stateSensitive issues (restitution of VAT, deregulation laws) create strength and synergiesInstallation of new governments tend to start from the scratch, therefore, business shall use the principle, ‘first came, first served!’ Get into the media:Public opinion is divided on entrepreneurship. This requires regular and carefull media coverage of the proposed amendments to the existing laws, regulations.In 2009, IDIS sponsored joint venues for politicians and business leaders to discuss their views on economic recovery and laws simplifying the regulatory mechanismsthink tanks are visible and resounding, when they can reproduce business agenda. Get involved:Business and Politicians are not allways good freiends, but to push ideas through in a democratic society, there is no other way than doing so through the political process. This request complex technologies to formulate clear messages, following precise definitions of the issues to be resolved, which are always sensitive, controversial, and touching the line of private interests. But, business leaders shall use politics, without ending to become political. An important lesson in Moldova is that former oligarchies shall be not replaced with renewed ones. <br />
17. Key-lessons for think tanks<br />Define your ideology: who are your competitors, what would be your competitive advantages, who is your target group, and who could finance your projects?Define your mission:focus an ideas that matter to the public, Work hard to establish your credibility (long-term), and perform from good to great on your field of expertise. Be innovative and action-oriented: think tanks may generate essential changes if they do more than only paper-writing (traditional old-conservative thinkers). Modern think tanks shall achieve its goals by making use of: connectors – influent and well informed people, mavens – knowledge-authorities of their fields), salesmen – champions of change. Be excellent in their own management: keep high professional communciation with stakeholders and donors, do not be bored by management agenda, respect your own promisses and deadlines, keep exemplarily good accounting. Find cost-effective products:recycle other’s great ideas,consider media interestsconsider special groups’ Be optimistic/idealistic: stay integrated by the fact that your are doing mobile work<br />
18. Moldova’s Political and Economic Context<br />Challenges for the new Government and Parliament of Moldova:Complicated economic and political transition (2001-2009)Politicized environment, and radical shift in power of the former ruling party (Communists) in 2009, after two consecutive elections (April 5, July 29), but incomplete transition (failure of the second runoff for the election of the President), constitutional reform launched.Abrupt decrease of state revenues, dire economic situation , and multiplication of poverty ‘pockets’ in the rural area and cities left without strategic investmentsUnresolved ‘frozen’ conflict in Moldova (Transnistria)<br />Responses to the challenges:<br /><ul><li>Creation of a liberal-democratic coalition (Alliance for EU integration)
19. Strategize priorities on a mid-term and long-term perspective through a Plan for Economic Recovery and Stabilization (anti-crisis action plan), starting with 2009
20. Beginning of negotiations for the new Agreement on Association with EU
21. Build up trust in democratic standards, restore the rule of law, in the post-Voronin perspective
22. Accelerate integration of Moldova into the West-led organizations and agreements, lifting to previous principle ‘neither West nor East’
23. Address the main setbacks of the regulatory and fiscal concerns of the business: abolish existing de facto market monopolies, corruption and discretionary powers, employed by the state agencies against the SMEs and foreign investors.</li>