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Think tanks, advocacy groups, business and charities

Understand the role of think tanks and other policy actors in policymaking and consider routes for policy engagement.

The role and reach of think tanks

Think tanks are research institutes that play an important role in making and influencing global, national, regional and local policies. In the UK, there is a plethora of think tanks across key policy themes. Some are aligned to political parties.

Think tanks are often staffed by policy specialists with in-depth subject knowledge, including former civil servants. They are typically well connected with policymakers and are effective at generating media coverage. If your research aligns with the work of a think tank, it could be an important intermediary in helping you to engage policymakers.

Some of the most influential think tanks in the UK include:

  • Joseph Rowntree Foundation: A social policy research and development charity.
  • The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS): An economic research institute specialising in UK taxation and public policy.
  • Nesta: A foundation which acts through a combination of programmes, investments, policy and research to promote innovation across a range of sectors.
  • The Resolution Foundation: An independent think tank which aims to improve the standard of living for low and middle-income families.
  • Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR): A progressive think tank which conducts research into economic, social and political sciences, science, technology, the voluntary sector, social enterprise, public services, industry and commerce.
  • The King’s Fund: An independent think tank involved with work related to the health system in England, aiming to improve health and care.
  • The Health Foundation: An independent charity committed to bringing about better health and healthcare for people in the UK. The organisation’s aim is a healthier population, supported by high-quality healthcare that can be fairly accessed.
  • Overseas Development Institute (ODI): An independent think tank working on international development and humanitarian issues, aiming to reduce poverty, alleviate suffering and improve livelihoods.

In the UK many of these think tanks are based in London, although some now have hubs in Cardiff, Manchester, Edinburgh and elsewhere.

Nationally and internationally, there are hundreds of think tanks whose focus might be relevant to your research: see OTT’s Global collection of think tanks and related organisations

The role of advocacy groups, business, and charities

In addition to think tanks, other policy actors include advocacy groups, businesses and charities. These organisations are often engaged in policy and public affairs – advocating for policy change related to their sector or cause and can play an important role in policy formation, development, and delivery.

Examples of coalitions of businesses which advocate for policy change include: The British Chambers of Commerce and Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Other trade associations focused on specific sectors include: RenewableUK and Tech UK.

Sometimes it will be appropriate to engage businesses directly in policy-relevant research.

There are also charities working on issues of public policy relevance at different spatial levels and across all themes, in particular across health, the environment and technology.

These include large, UK-wide or international organisations such as the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Alzheimer’s Society, or the World Wildlife Fund. Local charities can also be an important advocate for change too, and may be an important stakeholder to consider.

Charity Choice has compiled a comprehensive searchable list of all UK-based charities.

Working or partnering with other policy actors such as these can be an effective way to share your research findings with a wide audience. It can help to leverage the power and influence of well-established organisations, often including a large membership base, who can use your research as part of campaigning initiatives to bring about policy change.


  • Identify think tanks and other policy actors relevant to your area.
  • Follow relevant organisations on social media and subscribe to their email updates - these often include events lists and requests to participate in research.
  • Attend events.
  • Build policy connections with individuals involved by sharing your research and expertise and inviting them to attend your events.
  • Consider partnering with think tanks or other policy actors where there is mutual interest.

Further information

Learning from others

Read about Bath academics who have worked with think tanks, advocacy groups, business or charities as part of their research:

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