1. What do you mean, “independent think-tank”?
Itinera’s mission is to be a permanent, original, well-founded, daring but respective voice advocating sustainable economic growth and social protection. We look at the long term, beyond the maelstrom of day-to-day politics of Belgium and its regions. Itinera is not a part of party politics, nor are we represented in the country’s institutions. But we do complement them, by offering a broader and deeper perspective and potential. As an independent and non-partisan policy think-tank, our role is NOT to lobby for certain cases, nor to defend the interests of specific groups, nor to promote the political ideas of any party. That is something we leave up to those interest groups and political parties themselves (and to their study centres). Itinera is not linked in any way, be it directly or indirectly, to interest groups, political parties, civic organisations or the government. Itinera only has one goal : to help make our country better still by giving it a future which is even better than the present. We are driven by a clear awareness that our economy and our social security are in relative decay. That we are about to face enormous challenges for which we are hardly prepared, but also by the conviction that we can make things better. And we must do better, the generations which come after us deserve it. That is what drives us !
2. Where does Itinera get its funds?
We do not receive any funds from interest groups, political parties, civic organisations or government institutions, neither do we work as paid consultants. There are only two ways in which we collect the funds we need to operate. Any individual who subscribes to our mission statement can make a gift. A few mouse clicks via our website is all you need to do, without further commitment from your side other than the money you donate to support the institute’s mission. The other source of income are the financial support and bequests from individuals, families, foundations and companies who see it as their social responsibility to support independent think-tanks in order to promote true democratic debate in our society. We make clear agreements and we favour financial support which is spread over several years. Itinera decides on the allocation of funds in a totally autonomous manner. The donors can be assured that their financial support serves Itinera’s mission. We also guarantee anonymity. There is no direct, tangible quid pro quo. There is no advertising, we don’t engage in marketing, lobbying or networking.
Every financier signs a Charter of support that confirms these agreements.
download the charter here
3. Why is the list of donors not public?
There is a clear separation between the funds we attract and the activities we use them for. No donors can actually influence how Itinera operates. As such, it would be pointless to publish the list of donors, as this would only create the illusion that donors do determine how Itinera operates. Donors get no advertising in return for their financial support. What matters is the social mission which Itinera serves. Financial support merely serves to make this possible. We did make the list of donors public when we started the Institute. That was a conscious decision, to show our appreciation to those pioneers who have made the Itinera Institute possible, bearing in mind that Belgium had no tradition whatsoever in this field. The founding donors were true pioneers and we thank them for it.
4. Who determines Itinera’s agenda?
Itinera considers the long term interest of the country. We are facing major social and economic challenges. Itinera wants to propose daring but well-founded solutions. Itinera’s core team - which consists of the director, the chief economist and the senior fellows - decide on how the institute operates. An advisory committee serves as a sounding board. It consists of eminent professionals, from Belgian and abroad and from different backgrounds. Special steering groups exist for specific topics. Depending on the topic, these steering groups consist of representatives of all stakeholders. Each steering group, therefore, truly reflects the entire sector and ensures that all voices are heard.
5. Isn’t Itinera seen by some as rather “Flemish” or rather “liberal”?
Itinera has good and constructive contacts with practically all political parties and interest groups on both sides of the linguistic border. We go for the content, not for the perception. Anyone looking at all the proposals which Itinera has made, will discover a diversity which is inherent to how the institute works. In Belgium, you are quickly labelled. But in the end, Itinera Institute represents a large group of people who stick out their necks in a constructive manner, without any fixed agenda and with their only goal to serve the public interest. Itinera has an opinion, but does its homework first : we are not dogmatic and have no ideological prejudices. We look at problems in a pragmatic manner, based on facts and figures. We benchmark with other countries and focus on structural issues and on the longer term. Itinera is neither Belgicistic, nor Flemish, nor Walloon. We are all in this together. The institute’s core team has almost as many French-speaking members as it has Flemish-speaking members. We have an unvarnished opinion on the institutional deficiencies of the Belgian government structure, but consider the community aspect as a tool working towards a better policy, not as a goal as such.
6. How do you ensure your staff’s independence?
Anyone openly supporting a political party cannot work for the Itinera Institute. We also aim for a certain diversity of disciplines and profiles within the institute. Not all of our fellows and researchers are economists. But, apart from that, we have no dogmas and we exclude no one per se. We are open to all opinions and to all candidates. We always recruit through open vacancies, and select our staff in an open and thorough manner, aiming for the best. We are happy to welcome all researchers who want to work towards policy reforms, pragmatically and in a well-founded manner.