The foraus Model

Summary

foraus (Swiss Forum on Foreign Policy) is an independent grassroots think tank on foreign policy based in Switzerland. foraus generates independent, high quality recommendations for Swiss 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 an informed decision-making on all aspects of Swiss foreign policy. foraus is a grassroots organisation that strongly believes in crowd-sourcing methods and digital collaboration. 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 with the common goal to generate maximum impact.

Our Identity & Core Values

Topic

Foreign policy and global issues

Structure

Bottom-up, member-based, grassroots (crowdsourcing topics & authors)

Position

Non-partisan, independent, scientific

Working style

Crowdsourcing, collective intelligence, interdisciplinary, inter-agency,

digital collaboration, volunteering, flat hierarchies

Fundraising

Diversification, ”non-ideological funding” (Foundations, Federal

Department of Foreign Affairs, Members, Cercle de Donateurs)

Core values

Independent | Scientific | Relevant | Diversified

What is foraus?

foraus was founded by a group of students in 2009. Their main motivation was to create a platform for young professionals and students alike, and give them a voice on foreign policy issues in Switzerland. The founders wanted to empower young talents and give them the opportunity to help shape a fact-based but at the same time comprehensive discussion on foreign policy through an open platform. What started as an ambitious movement, emerged as a respected institution and a significant voice in Swiss foreign policy.

What we do

foraus members write innovative policy recommendations and commentaries on different topics related to foreign policy, various global issues, and Swiss politics regarding foreign affairs. Those recommendations and opinion pieces follow a scientific standard and are published as foraus discussion papers. Our publications are comprehensive as well as shorter and more concise than most of the academic literature, which helps us to bridge the gap between academia and the political sphere. Our second communication channel is the foraus blog, where researchers and young thinkers transmit their topical expertise and express their opinion.

Furthermore, the foraus community regularly organises public events on various topics - nationwide, applying innovative and interactive hosting methods. In recent years, several foraus members were consulted as experts on a series of topics related to Swiss foreign policy for domestic political discussions. This shows how foraus acts as a matchmaker between innovative ideas from bright citizens and decision makers. In short, foraus has three core competencies: publication of policy recommendations, events organisation, and fostering its network of members and decisions makers.

How foraus works

foraus follows the concept of a grassroots organisation and is therefore an open, participatory and crowd-based organisation. Consequently, the think tank is dedicated to creating an inclusive, diversified, and bi-partisan environment for its members. Our members consist of motivated and committed foreign policy enthusiasts with different educational and professional backgrounds, political affiliations and distinct expertise, as well as an interest in having a strong sense of community. The majority of our active members are volunteers who commit their time and enthusiasm for foraus .

Within three years, foraus formed regional branches in every university city in Switzerland and built up a substantial community with now, almost ten years after its foundation, accumulating around one thousand members. The leadership of those regional branches provide local support for our members and organise innovative and interactive events on various topics, such as; human rights poetry slams, migration policy hackathons, or peace & security speed-dating nights.

Additional to these regional branches, a number of program groups focus on different topics such as Europe, Peace & Security, Migration, Gender, Global Governance, Diplomacy or International and Humanitarian Law. Together with the two branch offices in Zurich and Geneva, these program groups support the authorship and the community with workshops, coaching events, quality reviews, extensive networking and facilitating the publication process as well as the promotion of the papers, policy briefs/recommendations and blog articles.

The think tank is lead by a 12-headed board that consists of specialists from different fields in (Swiss) foreign policy, international affairs, law, project management, strategic development and team leading. The board gets elected by the community at the annual general assembly. Four of the original founders of foraus are still active as board members and prove consistency on one hand, but also a strong commitment for development on the other.

foraus is an independent organisation and believes in a diversified and “non-ideological” funding concept and is supported by various foundations, such as the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA, private donors, and membership fees. The think tank is registered as a non-profit organisation in Bern, Switzerland.

Working Method

As a participatory bottom-up organisation, one of foraus’ core characteristics is that the think tank is accessible to everybody - regardless of their profession, expertise, political ideology or party affiliation. The core motivation and common denominator for all members is their enthusiasm for foreign policy. Bringing together, a political and cultural diversified as well as a motivated crowd that consists of experts with various backgrounds, creating a collective intelligence. This collective intelligence is the core idea of our grassroots-think tank and defines what foraus is all about: the “wisdom of the many”.

The basic concept was to create a crowdsourcing think tank that relies on the knowledge, expertise and idea-creation of many. You don’t have to be the expert all by yourself, but rather build up a community that consists of hundreds of brilliant minds and experts within their own fields. We want to use this collective intelligence to generate an unprecedented collaborative energy! The combination of a grassroots structure and the crowdsourcing methods are the main difference between foraus and traditional think tanks.

foraus is also a digitally driven think tank. The innovations of the digital age allow and even encourage us to push our think tank into the virtual sphere. Especially as a think tank that relies on a broad community, consisting mainly of volunteers, who are spread all over Switzerland; it is vital to find efficient and location-independent means as well as tools for a collaborative teamwork. We believe in a digital future! Therefore, as a civic tech-startup, we promote a digital work ethic.

This is also why foraus developed the digital Ideation and collaboration platform Policy Kitchen : a policy crowdsourcing methodology. Launched in 2018, it enables a large and diverse network of thinkers, to find creative solutions to pressing policy challenges. The methodology is built on a crowd innovation platform, a series of workshops in different cities, and a support process to bring the best ideas to policy impact. Policy Kitchen is an open platform and allows you to contribute your ideas to various policy challenges as well as to launch your own campaign! For more information and how to start your own campaign; click here.

Do you feel inspired? Do you want to start your own think tank? Then head over to our knowledge resource database and have a look at the document :