Leaders from dozens of think tanks met this week at The Heritage Foundation to kick off the largest such gathering in North America that has ever taken place.
The 2018 North American Think Tank Summit—hosted by The Heritage Foundation, along with the Brookings Institution and the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program—is one of 10 such summits that happen across the world in hopes of creating a better global community of think tanks.
“Why this meeting is so important is that it's not focusing on the policy issues so much, although we do look at those,” said James McGann, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, in an interview with The Daily Signal. “It’s really, ‘What are the challenges? What are the threats? How can we do what we do better?’”
The theme of this year's summit was policy and governance in the digital age.
“Times change. They always have, and they always will. Circumstances, needs, and conditions change with them. And so, think tanks must evolve as well,” said Heritage President Kay Coles James in her opening remarks.
McGann noted that from its inception, The Heritage Foundation introduced a number of public policy innovations years ahead of other institutions.
“I think the challenge of the moment and the future is to be on the cutting edge—which [Heritage] continue[s] to be,” said McGann. “That is, I think, the genius and the success of Heritage.”
The two-day event consisted of panel discussions and breakout sessions that focused on topics ranging from how think tanks can harness big data and be catalysts for change to political disruptions in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
In addition to hosting summits across the world, the University of Pennsylvania produces an annual “Global Go-To Think Tank Index.” This year’s report includes 7,815 think tanks and ranks them in multiple categories. The Heritage Foundation ranked No. 1 with respect to impact on public policy among a list of 61 think tanks across the globe.
“We as think tank leaders can help shape the era in which we live, no matter its turbulence, by providing the intellectual bricks. Policymakers need to build a pathway to the future,” said James.
“I applaud the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program for convening this incredibly timely summit, and I am so pleased to help welcome you to it. And I am honored to participate in it along with my highly esteemed colleagues.”