Acton Institute Ranked Among Top Global Think Tanks

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Jan. 24, 2013)—The University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program ranked the Acton Institute among the top social policy and top U.S. think tanks with the release of its 2012 Global Go-To Think Tanks Report.   In addition, Acton was cited for having one of the best advocacy campaigns.

The Acton Institute was ranked 13th in the “Top 50 Social Policy Think Tanks” (down one place from 2011), 34th in the “Top 55 Think Tanks in the United States” (up from 39th in 2011), and 19th out of 75 under “Best Advocacy Campaign,” a new category in 2012. The advocacy ranking includes organizations such as Amnesty International (#1), the Heritage Foundation (#15), and the One Campaign (#20).  The Acton Institute was singled out for its work on religious liberty and economic freedom, including the PovertyCure initiative. Endorsed by more than 180 partners, PovertyCure released a documentary-style, six-episode DVD series in December that discusses aid, enterprise and asks the question, “How do people create prosperity for their families and their communities?”

James G. McGann, director of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, and his research team conducted and published the detailed report which looked at 6,603 think tanks from 182 countries.  The program states that its “primary objective is to recognize some of the world’s leading public policy think thanks and highlight the notable contributions these institutions are making to government and civil societies worldwide … the ‘Think Tank Index’ has become the authoritative source for the top public policy institutions around the world.”

McGann observes that the nature of think tank work is changing, that “think tanks must be lean, mean, policy machines.” He also points out that, although the rate of establishing new think tanks has dropped in the last few years, “the growth of public policy research organizations, or think tanks, over the last few decades has been nothing less than explosive.” He warns that any organizations that “fail to organize and integrate these qualities into their think tank will become known for their ‘pedantry, irrelevance, obscurity, poverty and conventionality.’”

The report lists several trends that are driving the growth of think tanks, especially in countries located outside of North America and Europe. Notable trends include: globalization, increased complexity of policy issues; global “hacktivists,” anarchist, and populist movements; global structural adjustment; and policy tsunamis. Policy tsunamis refers to “an increasing number of political, natural and social phenomena at the national level [having] a global impact.”

The entire report is available from the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program here.

Acton is also preparing to move into new offices at 98 E. Fulton St. in downtown Grand Rapids. The institute has invested $6.5 million in the acquisition and renovation of the property. A March move-in is planned.

Highlights from the Think Tanks Report:

  • Acton Institute 13th in the Top Social Policy Think Tanks (12th in 2011)
  • Acton Institute 34th in Top Think Tanks in the United States (39th in 2011)
  • 19th in Best Advocacy Campaign (new category)
  • 1,647 think tanks were nominated 
  • There are 1,823 think tanks in the U.S. (more than twice the amount in 1980) 
  • Washington is home to almost 25 percent of American think tanks
  • Over 60 percent of think tanks worldwide are in Europe and North America

About the Acton Institute
With its commitment to pursue a society that is free and virtuous, the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty is a leading voice in the national environmental and social policy debate. The Acton Institute is uniquely positioned to comment on the sound economic and moral foundations necessary to sustain humane environmental and social policies.

The Acton Institute is a nonprofit, ecumenical think tank located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Institute works internationally to "promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles." For more on the Acton Institute, please visit

Interviews with Institute staff may be arranged by contacting John Couretas at (616) 454-3080 or at