Generally I think this is a wonderful idea: pooling the capacities of many capable Zanzibaris to put them to good use for improving public policy in Zanzibar.
My mother, Mariam Olban Ali forwarded this mail to me after I expressed my wish to do something related directly to Tanzania and working in a think-tank or NGO.
Currently I am working for the German development bank (German bilateral aid with developing countries) where I am responsible for managing development projects on health and education financed by the German government, in particular case in African countries.
A few questions remain in my mind as to the set up of such a think tank. I am wondering what the position of the think-tank will be in relation with the Zanzibar government.
If the think-tank wants to act as a public policy advisor and evaluator of Zanzibar public policy, it needs to ensure that a constant dialogue with the government so that the work of the think-tank is actually being heard by the government.
How to ensure such an independent and yet close dialogue? Also, I think an overlooked aspect of the think-tank could also be to strengthen or engage NGOs in this public policy discussion.
I find Zanzibar has a lot of NGOs on specific issues (gender, education, etc.) but are not aware of the wider public policy issues surrounding these topics.
At the same time the think-tank could profit from the experience of these NGOs in certain public policy fields. Hence the “target group” should not only be the government but all other relevant actors in public policy.
Another area that needs some thought concerns the membership profile of the think-tank: who can become a member? What are the pre-requisites and is it fully volunteer-based? Will there be permanent staff or only membership-based volunteers? If there is no permanent staff, how can adequate coordination and administration be ensured? This is also linked to the issue of funding: If there is permanent staff will they be salaried? Where to generally get funding not only for salaries but to actually conduct serious research? I look forward to further exchanging ideas on this promising initiative!