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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Hybridity and Aggregation in Global Policy Advice: The Case of Think20

Policy Analysis
Leslie Pal
Carleton University
Leslie Pal
Carleton University
Jennifer Spence
Carleton University

: The mechanisms and dynamics of how research is channeled into global policy processes is a key question in the field (Stone, 2013). Typical institutional suspects are think tanks, foundations, NGOs, and transnational administrative organizations like the OECD and the World Bank, and they are conceived to interact in fluid networks, a shifting and complex agora. This paper hypothesizes that the continuing context of global crisis has encouraged more robust and institutionalized forms of global steering, and with it, more robust and institutionalized forms of policy advice, what we term “global policy advisory systems” (GPAS).
The key example of emergent global steering is the G20, which, since its inception in 1999, has become “in practice as well as proclamation, the centre of global economic governance for a globalized world” and the “embryonic club at the hub of a dense, expansive network of global governance as a whole (Kirton, 2013: 373; 386). Conceived in 2009 and institutionalized in 2012 under the Mexican presidency of the G20, the Think20 (T20) is a network of research institutes, think tanks and international organizations established to provide research-based policy advice to the G20. While its beginnings were tentative and no more than “intellectual ornamentation” (Stone, 2013: 191), by 2017 it had established policy-specific task forces and produced peer-reviewed policy recommendations that have been channeled directly into the G20 process.
We argue that the T20 is something different in the constellation of global policy advisory networks. First, it is attempting to institutionalize, to become more of a GPAS (a “system”). Second, it is a global aggregator of policy research and advice, coming from around the world (mostly, but not exclusively, G20 members). That aggregation is not innocent, and raises questions about knowledge participation and knowledge formation. Third, we argue that it is a hybrid network, unusual because (1) it is attempting to construct an institutional framework in weighted nodes and reinforced communicative routines, and (2) it combines think tanks, institutes, but also councils and international organizations like the OECD.
The first section of the paper will examine the characteristics of the T20 as a GPAS, including its objectives, structure, membership, and the tools it uses to influence policy. This relies on interviews with key actors (e.g., the G20 Centre at the University of Toronto, CIGI in Waterloo; the Council for Global Problem-Solving at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy; and the two chair organizations for the Argentinian G20 in 2018 -- Consejo Argentino para las Relaciones Internacionales, and Centro de Implementación de Políticas Públicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento). The second section applies social network analysis tools (UCINET and Netdraw) to visualize the features of the T20 network. This is still a relatively new methodology in network analysis (Paterson, Hoffman, Betsill, & Bernstein, 2014; Ward, Stovel, & Sacks, 2011), and will provide an empirical basis on which to assess the T20’s network characteristics.
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