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Think-Tanks and Policy Transformation: The Case of Brazil

Elena Lazarou
Getulio Vargas Foundation
Stella Ladi
Queen Mary, University of London
Elena Lazarou
Getulio Vargas Foundation
Open Panel

Abstract

This paper aims to understand the role of think-tanks in the production of ideas guiding recent policy transformation in Brazil in three distinct sectors: foreign, social and fiscal policy. The paper departs from the assumption that think-tanks are significant agents of policy change which are often in the forefront of providing policy ideas and evidence for policy change and which act as mediators between society and governments or between governments and international organisations in order to promote institutional and policy change. While this has been empirically shown in studies of policy change in Europe and North America, there is little known work testing the hypothesis in “new global actors”, particularly Brazil. Thus, the paper’s objective is to unpack the role of think-tanks in Brazil by asking two key questions. First, what has been the role of think-tanks during public and foreign policy shifts under Lula? A discursive institutionalist approach is used in order to answer this question. Second, how is knowledge used in this process and where does this knowledge come from? In order to answer this question, the literature on knowledge and policy learning is linked with discursive institutionalism and used to interpret data derived from interviews with Brazilian think-tank directors and from research on the nature of links between Brazilian think-tanks and policy-makers in the Lula administration. The Brazilian case is chosen as an example of significant policy transformation and because of the new demands placed on its policy makers as Brazil increasingly joins the ranks of global players. The timeframe (2003-2010), regarded widely as a critical juncture for Brazil socioeconomically and politically, offers itself for the study of think-tank activity as it is during critical junctures that think-tanks increase their possibility of performing as carriers of co-ordinative and communicative discourse and actually affecting policy change (Ladi 2010).