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Re think your funding model: challenge the assumption and move away from the comfort zone

[Editor’s note: This post was written by Maria Stratan, from the Institute for Public Policies in the Republic of Moldova. It is part of a series of reflections from participants and facilitators of the Online training “Re thinking funding models”, supported by the Think Tank Fund and the Think Tank Initiative.]

 

Starting from September I had the opportunity of participating in the “Online Course: Re Thinking Funding Models” delivered by the Politics & Ideas (P&I) team.  Throughout the duration of several weeks the course instructors and the provided materials made me reflect over the existing funding model of the Institute of Public Policies (IPP), its implications on the quality of research and organization’s long term sustainability. Most important we were able to challenge some assumptions that normally are regarded with skepticism; however revisiting them provides a solid ground for exploring new ways of raising funds.images

Institute of Public Policy plays an important role at the local and national level through developing and publishing relevant policy analysis in the areas important for the country’s development. During the last years, the institute has developed policies in the education, security, regional and local development, good governance and non-discrimination fields, the work being conducted through its operational programs. Therefore, the quality of research is extremely important for us in order to provide real policy influence; however the possibility of influencing and supporting the decision-making process through policy analysis and public policy development is constantly affected by the think tank’s financial sustainability.

Institute of Public Policy -as many other think tanks from Moldova- relies mainly on core funding support, contracts and grants provided by international organizations and aid agencies,  and less on local funding sources. In fact, the existing donor driven policy market makes the institution less financially sustainable on long term. The dependence on foreign aid and the lack of domestic funding was one of the main concerns raised by many participants of the course. Even though currently our organization has a good position thanks to a combination of different types of funds, the course made me reflect over the possibility of further exploring the potential of local contributors to the research agenda. Of course, the local context and the alignment to the core programs and values of the organization matters a lot in attempting to mobilize internal resources.

In this sense, the course was really inspiring in understanding that is time to start moving away from the comfort zone, as what has worked so far in terms of funding is not enough for a long term sustainable growth. Thanks to the course, the diversification and development of new sources of funding has become an important part of the current discussions within the organization. The key question is how to find the right approach and frame it within the organization’s fundraising strategy and action plan for the medium and long term.

The changing political and economic conditions at the local and regional level require the use of an entrepreneurial mindset in securing funds. However, we must be realistic about our options and take into consideration the specifics of the local environment. The highest financial potential when it comes to local contributors to the research agenda might come from the private companies and commercial banks’ CSR programs. The current trend of the CSR programs in Moldova is to fund initiatives with social and charitable character. Even if private entities have no history in funding research activities so far, it must be acknowledged that there is a lot of room to be explored. Indeed, at the beginning this source of funding could return low sustainability because of its inconsistency in providing grants for policy research, however with the right narrative it could be integrated in the organization’s funding model and become a valuable source of support. That is the challenge now. The feasible working hypothesis in how to tackle this challenge is to find a research area of interest to both our organization and CSR programs operating in the country, test it and see how it goes.

In the end, I want to emphasize that on a personal level the course fulfilled its general objective of zooming in and out our current funding model. The new knowledge provoked discussions within the organization, by putting a lot of reflection over the existing funding practices and its implications, over the external forces and internal dynamics and finally over future investments vs. the current costs. It was a journey worth taking it!

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