Article “Think Tanks in a Limited Access Order: The Case of Ukraine”

Olena Carbou, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Think Tanks Liaison Office in Brussels, and Oleksandra Keudel, PhD candidate at the Berlin Graduate School for Global and Transregional Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin, prepared an article “Think Tanks in a Limited Access Order: The Case of Ukraine” for SAGE.

This article belongs to the special cluster, “Think Tanks in Central and Eastern Europe”, guest-edited by Katarzyna Jezierska and Serena Giusti.

Think tanks outside liberal democracies have distinctive features that go beyond the features of the original concept that emerged within the US context. Departing from this empirical observation, we investigate the sources of the organisational power of think tanks in Ukraine as a case of a limited access order (LAO), a social order where privileged individuals maintain discretionary access to societal resources, functions, and institutions. To accomplish this goal, we apply Thomas Medvetz’s analytical concept of a “boundary organisation,” which allows us to highlight the hybridity and flexibility of think tanks and thus understand their methods of gaining political access in an LAO. The analysis of interviews with senior representatives of nongovernmental think tanks in Ukraine in 2016–2017 demonstrates that Ukrainian think tanks are resourceful and find indirect ways of influencing politics. These organisations publish their reports in the media and deliver assessments of Ukraine’s international commitments to the country’s donors, thereby indirectly influencing the policy process in the country. Ukrainian think tanks also comply with the expectations of a boundary organisation, accumulating and converting economic, academic, and media capital into political capital, using advocacy and networking as conversion tools. One important difference between the expectations of Medvetz’s framework and our findings is that political capital seems to be the goal of think tank activity, while the three other types are used merely instrumentally.

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