Public Policy–Organizations

Public Policy Resources Topical Resources General Resources Organizations Additional Information
Think Tanks
Professional Organizations
Academic Institutions

Think Tanks

A think tank (or policy institute, research institute, etc.) is a body of experts that researches political, social or economic problems and provides advice on those issues. Think tanks range from non-partisan, seeking solutions without regard to political outcomes, while others actively advocate on behalf of a particular party or ideology. Think tanks are frequently nonprofit organizations, funded by governments, businesses, endowments, contracts, private donations, consulting fees, sales of publications or other projects.

News and Information on Think Tanks

Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program. The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the International Relations Program, University of Pennsylvania conducts research on the role policy institutes play in governments and in civil societies around the world. Often referred to as the “think tank’s think tank,” TTCSP examines the evolving role and character of public policy research organizations. It produces two key resources:

  • The Global Go-To Think Tank Index. The TTCSP publishes an international survey of over 1,950 scholars, public and private donors, policy makers, and journalists who helped rank more than 6,500 think tanks using a set of 18 criteria.
  • The Go-To Think Tank Directory. The TTCSP is creating an online directory featuring the organizational profiles of the world’s top think tanks. The profiles will take the form of power point presentations that many organizations have developed for internal (new staff orientation) or external (fundraising and external relations) purposes.

Think Tank Watch. Think Tank Watch, which started in March 2012, aims to be a one-stop-shop for learning and thinking about think tanks. It covers domestic and global think tank news, gossip, personnel, reports, studies, and pretty much anything else related to think tanks. Think Tank Watch can be found cruising the mean streets of “Think Tank Row” and beyond, attending scores of think tank events each year. Think Tank Watch aims to be the best database of think tank news and gossip in the world. Questions, comments, and tips can be sent to: info (at)

Directories of Think Tanks

Prominent Think Tanks (including mission or purpose statements)

  • American Enterprise Institute. The American Enterprise Institute is a community of scholars and supporters committed to expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity and strengthening free enterprise. AEI pursues these unchanging ideals through independent thinking, open debate, reasoned argument, facts and the highest standards of research and exposition. Without regard for politics or prevailing fashion, we dedicate our work to a more prosperous, safer and more democratic nation and world.
  • Brookings Institution. The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC. Our mission is to conduct high-quality, independent research and, based on that research, to provide innovative, practical recommendations that advance three broad goals: Strengthen American democracy; Foster the economic and social welfare, security and opportunity of all Americans; and Secure a more open, safe, prosperous and cooperative international system.
  • Cato Institute. The mission of the Cato Institute is to originate, disseminate, and increase understanding of public policies based on the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace. Our vision is to create free, open, and civil societies founded on libertarian principles.
  • Center for American Progress. The Center for American Progress is an independent nonpartisan educational institute dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action. Building on the achievements of progressive pioneers such as Teddy Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, our work addresses 21st-century challenges such as energy, national security, economic growth and opportunity, immigration, education, and health care. We develop new policy ideas, critique the policy that stems from conservative values, challenge the media to cover the issues that truly matter, and shape the national debate.
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies. CSIS is a bipartisan, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Center’s 220 full-time staff and large network of affiliated scholars conduct research and analysis and develop policy initiatives that look to the future and anticipate change.
  • Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The Center conducts research and analysis to help shape public debates over proposed budget and tax policies and to help ensure that policymakers consider the needs of low-income families and individuals in these debates. We also develop policy options to alleviate poverty.
  • Council on Foreign Relations. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher dedicated to being a resource for its members, government officials, business executives, journalists, educators and students, civic and religious leaders, and other interested citizens in order to help them better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries.
  • Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.
  • Hoover Institution. The principles of individual, economic, and political freedom; private enterprise; and representative government were fundamental to the vision of the Institution’s founder. By collecting knowledge, generating ideas, and disseminating both, the Institution seeks to secure and safeguard peace, improve the human condition, and limit government intrusion into the lives of individuals.
  • Hudson Institute. Hudson Institute challenges conventional thinking and helps manage strategic transitions to the future through interdisciplinary studies in defense, international relations, economics, health care, technology, culture, and law. Hudson seeks to guide public policy makers and global leaders in government and business through a vigorous program of publications, conferences, and policy briefings and recommendations.
  • New America Foundation. The New America Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States.
  • Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research does not take policy positions.
  • Public Policy Institute of California. The PPIC seeks to inform and improve public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research on major social, economic, and political issues.
  • RAND Corporation. The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. For more than six decades, RAND has used rigorous, fact-based research and analysis to help individuals, families, and communities throughout the world be safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous. Our research spans the issues that matter most, such as energy, education, health, justice, the environment, and international and military affairs.
  • United States Institute of Peace. The United States Institute of Peace is an independent, nonpartisan institution established and funded by Congress to increase the nation’s capacity to manage international conflict without violence. Its mission is to prevent, mitigate and resolve violent conflicts around the world by engaging directly in conflict zones and providing analysis, education and resources to those working for peace.
  • Urban Institute. The Urban Institute gathers data, conducts research, evaluates programs, offers technical assistance overseas, and educates Americans on social and economic issues — to foster sound public policy and effective government. The Urban Institute builds knowledge about the nation’s social and fiscal challenges, practicing open-minded, evidence-based research to diagnose problems and figure out which policies and programs work best, for whom, and how.
  • World Resources Institute. WRI’s mission is to move human society to live in ways that protect Earth’s environment and its capacity to provide for the needs and aspirations of current and future generations. We organize our work around six critical goals that the world must achieve this decade in order to secure a sustainable future: Climate, energy, food, forests, water, and cities and transport.

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Professional Organizations

  • Alliance for Nonprofit Management (ANM). The Alliance for Nonprofit Management is the professional association of individuals and organizations devoted to improving their management and governance capacity of nonprofit nationwide. ANM accomplishes its goals through programming, advocacy, research and dialogue for social change.
  • American Association for Budget and Program Analysis (AABPA). AABPA members are government budget and program managers and analysts, academic specialists, and analysts in the private sector. AABPA organizes symposia, free monthly programs, a quarterly newsletter and journal, and annual receptions to help members keep up with the latest developments in the field, establish and maintain valuable contacts, and sharpen the skills and knowledge.
  • American Political Science Association (APSA). The American Political Science Association is the leading professional organization for the study of political science and serves more than 15,000 members in over 80 countries. With a range of programs and services for individuals, departments and institutions, APSA brings together political scientists from all fields of inquiry, regions, and occupational endeavors within and outside academe in order to expand awareness and understanding of politics.
  • American Public Works Association (APWA). The American Public Works Association serves professionals in all aspects of public works. With a worldwide membership over 28,500 strong, APWA includes personnel from local, county, state/province, and federal agencies. Members also include private sector personnel who supply products and services to those professionals.
  • American Society for Public Administration (ASPA). The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and nonprofit administration. ASPA’s four core values are Accountability and Performance, Professionalism, Ethics and Social Equity.
  • Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM). With approximately 1,500 individual members and 100 institutional members, APPAM is a non-profit dedicated to improving public policy and management by fostering excellence in research, analysis and education. APPAM promotes its mission through an annual research conference, a peer-reviewed multidisciplinary journal, several award programs and various activities including international and national conferences and workshops.
  • Association of Government Accountants (AGA). AGA is the member organization for financial professionals in government. AGA leads and encourages change that benefits the field. It offers networking events, professional certification, publications and ongoing education to help members build their skills and advance their careers.
  • Federal Managers Associations (FMA). The Federal Managers Association (FMA), established in 1913, is the oldest, largest, and most influential association representing the interests of the 200,000 managers, supervisors and executives serving in today’s federal government. FMA advocates in the Executive Branch and Congress on behalf of members and offers programs, publications and networking opportunities.
  • Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA). Government Finance Officers Association is a professional association of approximately 17,500 state, provincial, and local government finance officers in the United States and Canada. The GFOA provides leadership to the government finance profession through research, education, and recommended practices.
  • Institute for Public Procurement (NIGP). With over 2,600 member agencies representing over 16,000 professionals across the United States, Canada and countries outside of North America, NIGP develops, supports, and promotes the public procurement profession through educational and research programs, professional support, technical services and advocacy initiatives.
  • International City/County Management Association (ICMA). The International City/County Management Association promotes excellence in local governance by providing member support, publications, data and information, peer and results-oriented assistance, and training and professional development. Its 9,000 members include the professional city, town, and county managers who are appointed by elected officials to oversee the day-to-day operation of their communities.
  • International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IMPA-HR). IPMA-HR is a leading public sector human resource organization. It represents the interests of human resource professionals at all levels and strives to promote excellence in HR management. IPMA-HR is a resource for comprehensive and timely HR industry news, jobs, policies, resources, education, and professional development opportunities.
  • National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA). The Academy is an independent, non-profit, and non-partisan organization established to assist government leaders in building more effective, efficient, accountable, and transparent organizations. The Academy’s unique feature is its over 750 Fellows—including former cabinet officers, Members of Congress, governors, as well as prominent scholars, business executives, and public administrators.
  • National Association of Counties (NACo). The National Association of Counties (NACo) is the only national organization that represents county governments in the United States. Founded in 1935, NACo assists America’s 3,069 counties in pursuing excellence in public service to produce healthy, vibrant, safe and resilient counties. NACo promotes sound public policies, fosters county solutions and innovation, promotes intergovernmental and public-private collaboration and provides value-added services to save counties and taxpayers money.
  • National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO). The National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) is a professional membership organization for state budget and finance officers. As the chief financial advisors the nation’s governors, NASBO members guide their states in analysis of budget options and formation of sound public policy. NASBO advances state budget practices through research, policy analysis, education, and knowledge sharing among its members.
  • National Association of State Facilities Administrators (NASFA). The National Association of State Facilities Administrators (NASFA) is a professional organization whose mission is fostering communication and providing leadership in the development and implementation of state facility administration practices.
  • National Association of State Personnel Executives (NASPE). The National Association of State Personnel Executives is the recognized authority on state government human resource issues, trends, practices, and policies and serves as a leader and catalyst for the development of state human resources and is dedicated to enhancing the image of state public service.
  • National Council of Nonprofits. Through the nation’s largest network of nonprofits, a network of State Associations and 25,000-plus members, the National Council of Nonprofits (Council of Nonprofits) serve as a central coordinator and mobilizer to help nonprofits achieve greater collective impact in local communities across the country. It identifies emerging trends, shares proven practices, and promotes solutions that benefit charitable nonprofits and the communities they serve.
  • National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA). The National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA) is an organization dedicated to the advancement of black public leadership in local and state governments. An independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, its 2,600 members manage public programs and agencies in more than 350 jurisdictions nationwide.

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Academic Institutions

The Master of Public Policy (M.P.P.) is a master’s level professional degree that provides training in policy analysis and program evaluation at public policy schools. In addition to providing details about their programs, institutions offering M.P.P. degrees provide a wealth of information on their web sites including faculty and student working papers and reports on a range of policy topics.

U.S. News & World Report ranks the following as the top ten M.P.P. programs.

The full list is available on the U.S. News and World Report website.

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