Funding influence: openDemocracy uses PolicyMogul data to examine think tanks

Date posted: 15/12/2023

Recently updated for 2023 by independent international media platform openDemocracy, the Who Funds You? project helps people understand more about how think tanks work to influence public policy.

PolicyMogul has partnered with openDemocracy to provide data to inform their 2023 Influence Report. The report offers potential funders and members of the public an independent assessment of 64 think tanks in the UK, all of which seek to influence public policy. A transparency rating from A (transparent) to E (opaque) is given to each think tank, based on how open it is about where its funding comes from.

openDemocracy’s Who Funds You? 2023 Influence Report

This year, PolicyMogul data has been used to also create an influence rating for each think tank included in the report.

Through PolicyMogul, openDemocracy has identified how many mentions each think tank received in parliament between October 2022 and September 2023. This data was combined with metrics for social media impact in order to attribute scores (with 0 being the rating for least influential and 6 for most influential).

“This additional measure makes it clear why financial transparency is so important. The ability of think tanks to shape public debate – online or in our parliaments – is not notional or theoretical. It is real. This report puts some numbers on this influence for the first time” said the openDemocracy team.

Tracking political mentions in real time

Additionally, analytics from PolicyMogul are also used on openDemocracy’s website to provide up-to-date insights into the mentions individual think tanks get in parliament. Below is an example of how this looks for high-influence think tank Chatham House.

Here are some of the report’s key findings:

  • Opaque think tanks had an income of more than £25m last year, up from £19m in the previous year. This is likely to be a significant underestimate as 19 think tanks did not publish a clear income statement
  • Eight out of 14 highly influential UK think tanks were opaque about their funding – with ‘E’-graded think tanks getting almost as many mentions as ‘A’-rated ones
  • ‘Dark money’-funded think tanks were more influential on social media than transparent think tanks, even though they raised less cash overall
  • Seven think tanks have improved their transparency rating since 2022

To find out more about the report, or to download it for yourself, visit Who Funds You?

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