Assessment of policy relevant research in Ukraine

The following research was conducted on request of the International Renaissance Foundation in the framework of the Think Tank Development Initiative.

The goal was to assess the demand and supply of policy research in Ukraine, review its evolution following the Revolution of Dignity (Euromaidan), and provide recommendations for donors on how to effectively support public policy research.

The window of opportunity after the Revolution of Dignity has stimulated the supply of policy analysis. Well-established think tanks have promoted policy research developed during the pre-Euromaidan years. In addition, new organizations have entered the market after identifying a demand for their expertise.

The demand side of the policy process has also evolved. Since 2014, the government has launched largescale reforms in multiple areas such as anticorruption, decentralization, the judicial system, health care and education. Public administration reform has influenced the demand side for policy research the most. The responsibilities of the newly created directorates in selected ministries now include maintaining the full public policy cycle, from identifying needs to monitoring implementation. The procedural regulation1 updated by the Cabinet of Ministers obliges policymakers to use data in policy analysis, assess all possible options, consult with stakeholders and plan for monitoring and evaluation. Work of the Verkhovna Rada committees and Parliament as a whole has also become more open for discussion and contribution from civil society.

The main challenges of think tanks in policy research include a lack of qualified experts to conduct technical policy research, a weak national system of statistical data collection, and unstable sources of funding. With these factors in mind, think tanks have to find the right balance between timeliness of research, its quality and depth, and costs they spend for research.

Think tanks practice three different strategies to respond to policy makers’ demands:

  • Those who depend on project-based funding tend to see policy makers as beneficiaries, meaning donor priorities suggest the research focus. These think tanks may leave a research topic after the end of a project and wait for another funding opportunity to continue research in this area. In this case, donors ensure the relevance of the research to the policy process.
  • Through media engagement, advocacyoriented research institutions see their role as promoting an agenda that is not fully supported by the government. They may publish shadow reports on government policy implementation or engage policy makers in dialogue based on the results of controversial research.
  • Highly specialized organizations play a consultative role for policy makers, providing key input into critical policies developed by the government. Policy makers see these organizations as go-to experts, may request them to do ad hoc policy analysis and may invite them to be in working groups on the development of key policies. Some think tanks suggest that policy makers delegate some of their work to them.

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