Such institutions have existed for more than a century in the United States. Since the early 1990s, they have found their own fruitful niche in Italy as well (ex. Fondazione Liberal, Magna Carta, FareFuturo, ItalianiEuropei, etc) and are at the centre of this concise but carefully written book by Mattia Diletti, who describes their features and importance in a number of contexts, their organisational and operational modes, as well as the relationships they have established with governments, parties and interest groups.
If the definition that comes closest to describing the notion of think tank (with its military connotations) appears to be that of “a research centre whose goal is to shape choices by decision-makers or promote a specific political and cultural agenda,” it is not hard to see their communicational significance, namely their close links to media as well as their strong editorial action based on the new media that current technology has made possible.
Not only does this well-research and easily readable book allow the reader to understand an institution that is bound to play an ever expanding supporting role for decision-makers at a time when political parties and other intermediate bodies are on the decline, but it will also enable him or her to gain greater appreciation of howthrough research, analysis and exchange ideas, public campaigns, decisions and marketing plans develop in relation to the issues that democratic regimes today must address.
To illustrate this view, Diletti quotes Edwin Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, who said, “How do you measure impact? We have asked ourselves this question since day one, and we still have no clear answers. [. . .] When the different ingredients go into the political meat grinder and the legislative sausage comes out, how do we know which pieces of it are ours? We often cannot answer with precision. With this as a given, we decided early on that we would take advantage of every opportunity that presented itself to get our views out in the arena even if that meant being called a ‘marketing machine.’”