foraus global: a global network of open think tanks

The «foraus global network of open think tanks» – in short «foraus global» – strives for the creation, development and cooperation of open think tanks around the world. We use innovative crowdsourcing methods and grassroots structures, creating a participative platform to create opportunities to participate in political debates outside of traditional fora. We thereby democratize the shaping of international policy. All member organizations of «foraus global» share the common goal of developing constructive, coherent and future-oriented policy solutions with the objective of fostering a culture of open debate and discussions around highly relevant issues in international affairs. Member organizations of «foraus global» are non-partisan and committed to analytical methods to produce the most innovative policy suggestions. Our agenda is global and we are looking for partners and co-founders from all continents.

A short portrait of our ambitions has been published by a major Swiss newspaper (in German). 

"Berlin 2017: 2nd Gathering of the foraus global network of open think tanks"

The second gathering of the «foraus global network of open think tanks» was taking place in Berlin from June 30th to July 2nd 2017. At this event, a lot of members from sister think tanks in our network joined forces together and tried to bring the network to a next level. Around 60 people from the management, the board, as well as some active members of Polis180, Argo, Agora and foraus attended the meeting, and also people who try to build new crowdsourcing think tanks in Austria and Belgium (cf. member organisations) were present. The two-day meeting included a strategic meeting for the core teams on Friday and a policy event, discussions on current projects and the development of new common projects on Saturday. To mention twos highlights: (1) Our network agreed on a common «letter of intent» (constitution) which will soon be ratified within the different member think tanks; (2) A half dozen of joint projects have been launched during this weekend, for example a policy paper for the future of European defense policy or a diversity screening for organizations.

Member Organisations

Even though a lot of future member organizations are still in the process of setting up their organizational structures, our global network already has four existing member organizations in Switzerland, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Working groups and task forces in Austria, Belgium, Israel, Macedonia and Italy are already discussing to establish an open think tank model in their respective countries. Furthermore, in February 2017, a group of ten foraus members has been participating in a research trip to the United States, paving the way for a an open think tank in New York, Washington D.C, and/or Boston. If you are interested in our model and could imagine to become active in your country, please contact us!

Switzerland: foraus (www.foraus.ch)

foraus (Swiss Forum on Foreign Policy) generates independent, high-quality recommendations for foreign policy decision-makers and the public, thereby bridging the gap between academia and politics. Its non-partisan approach aims to promote an open dialogue and informed decision-making on all aspects of Swiss foreign policy. foraus is a grassroots organization. Its success as a think tank is based on its members’ voluntary commitment. Members are primarily graduates and young professionals, active in a nationwide network of young researchers and foreign policy enthusiasts. The think tank was founded in 2009 and has since become a major civil society actor in the field of foreign policy.

Germany: Polis180 (www.polis180.org)

« Polis180 » was the first spin-off of foraus. Polis programmes create innovative debating formats that enable a better discussion of the questions that bother us most. Whether by organizing a « speed-dating » session with politicians or a crisis simulation with decision-makers, the aim is to inspire a German and international audience with fresh ideas. An integral part of the Polis programmes is that members themselves develop policy recommendations, which are then published on the Polis Blog or as a Polis Paper. All the analyses are done according to acknowledged academic standards, yet they are also written in an accessible way so as to reach and convince a wider audience. What’s more, the members also benefit from workshops and networking events for personal and professional development. Recently, « Polis180 » was ranked No. 8 of the « Best New Think Tanks 2016 » worldwide by the University of Pennsylvania.

France: Argo (http://argothinktank.org/)

In the European super election year, foraus’ and Polis180’s new sister think tank, « Argo », sets foot in France. Argo is setting out on March 23rd with their official launch press conference, in Paris.

Offering an alternative form of political expression for the 21st century, Argo pools policy ideas and expertise through a crowdsourcing platform, following the foraus model, allowing individuals regardless of age or profession to have a hand in shaping the policies that affect their lives. Through its outreach branch, the think tank actively reaches out to those voices across society (in schools, religious groups, unions, and associations) that are hardest to hear, and working to make policy challenges accessible in exchange for experience and inspiration, for stories and ideas. These exchanges in turn inform the think tank’s policy outputs. This exchange reduces the gap between policy and people and gives leverage for Argo to place their policy proposals with decision makers.

Argo describe themselves as inclusive, fact-based, global, and optimistic. Sourcing and delivering innovative policy ideas and revitalising the public debate in this way, the think tank offers a means of democratic expression not beholden to party politics or to the electoral calendar.

UK: Agora (http://www.agorathinktank.org/)

Agora describes itself as the UK's open forum for foreign policy. Agora provides a platform for people who are knowledgeable and passionate about international affairs. The aim is to create and grow a community that combines the intellectual rigour of academia with the professional standards of a think tank. Agora supports their members in developing ideas and empower them to influence foreign policy outside of the conventional channels. Agora works to produce informed, creative, and pragmatic foreign policy proposals. Through their blogs, briefings, reports, and events we allow a wide range of voices to participate in the key debates on the future of international relations. Agora will officially launch in London in November 2017. You can find out more and watch them develop by visiting their website and social media channels.

AUT: Vienna Think Tank

A small group in Vienna wants to bring the grassroots concept also to Austria's think tank landscape. Vienna as a melting pot of cultures and its position as a mediator between the «West» and the «East», Vienna as a hub for global politics and last but not least all the challenges in Austria's national political sphere - all that requires a new democratic voice. The think tanks aim is to provide a platform for young people where relevant issues on foreign policy can be discussed beyond established party lines. The project is still in the starting blocks and therefore in the process of gathering active and committed members. As a first step towards this goal, a community building event is going to take place on October 6th 2017 at 4:30 pm at the Impact Hub Vienna (Lindengasse 56, 1070 Vienna). All interested innovative thinkers should join this event!

EU: Brussels Think Tank

The foraus branch in Brussels used to focus mostly on Swiss foreign policy issues related to bilateral relations between Switzerland and the European Union (EU). In 2017, the branch is planning to become a more independent organization with a broader focus. The agenda will mainly focus on the future of the European Union and the EU’s relations with third country actors. Ultimately, our Brussels branch wants to introduce a more participatory approach to the vast think tank landscape of Europe’s capital.

First transnational paper project: europe.think.again

On Saturday 25 March 2017, it had been 60 years since the Treaty of Rome, establishing the European Economic Community, was signed. On this occasion, foraus global published a short collection of ideas to reform European cooperation. The ideas were collected across Europe and formed the first transnational paper project of the « foraus global » network.

This is the final version of our paper with the five policy ideas which were selected by our high-level jury and presented to the media during the kick-off event of our member think tank Argo in Paris.

First international meeting: Co-creation workshop in Geneva

At a co-creation workshop between 20 - 21 October 2016 in Geneva, members of foraus, Polis180 and policy enthusiasts from different countries (France, UK, Austria, Macedonia, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany and Israel) motivated to set up their own think tank, came together. The workshop laid the ground for the « foraus global network of open think tanks » and was intended to facilitate the kick-start and development of think tanks in each country. The workshop was concluded by a discussion with partner institutions and friends of foraus who provided feedback and reflection about further steps. 

First international « Open Situation Room »: « The Humanitarian Diplomacy Lab » in Geneva & San Francisco

« Virtual proximity: How to create digital trust and engagement in remotely controlled /insecure environments? »

This question was at the heart of our “Open Situation Room” workshop that was held on 21 March at the ICRC headquarters in Geneva as part of The Humanitarian Diplomacy Lab, a global series of workshop that explore new and inclusive forms of diplomacy in order to tackle urgent humanitarian challenges.

In situations of armed conflict or violence, humanitarian organizations have for decades based their operating model on physical proximity. Today’s increased connectivity allows aid agencies to engage with people remotely via messaging apps, social media, SMS, etc and thus, opens doors to new opportunities when physical presence is not possible.

Yet, these technologies also pose a series of challenges: how do we ensure the security of people who engage with humanitarian organizations? How do we protect their personal data and information? How do we deal with propaganda and fake news? Ultimately, how do we build trust between organizations and people? It is to this last question that participants tried to find a solution during this “Open Situation Room”.

The project mirrors the visions of both foraus and the Global Diplomacy Lab, that is, to encourage smart minds around the world to develop their potential, and bring forth original pathways and new solutions to global (diplomacy) challenges. It brought together great minds from Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America whose aim is to find innovative solutions in a state of urgency and crisis. A final Global Pitch Night concluded this series of workshops and took place at swissnex San Francisco on 22 March.

The Humanitarian Diplomacy Lab is a joint initiative of the Swiss foreign policy think tank foraus, the Global Diplomacy Lab, the Consulate General of Switzerland in San Francisco, and swissnex San Francisco. It is part of the event series Everyone a Humanitarian at Swissnex.

foraus global Core Team

from left to right:

Regula Hess, Board member in charge of the «foraus global» strategy

Luca Brunner, Co-head «foraus global»

Laurence Herzog, Co-head «foraus global»

Nicola Forster, President foraus - Swiss Forum on Foreign Policy

Elena Donzelli, Project assistant «foraus global»

Vincent Cottier, Project assistant «foraus global»

Please contact us on: global@foraus.ch