It seems to me that the funding qn boils down to "Who is going to pay me/us to think?". And then a sensible follow on question is "How do other people get paid to think?" - or more directly "Who pays other people to think?"
Academia is one obvious answer, but it isn't the only one.
Consumers and advertisers are another answer, in terms of the 'literary magazine' model (the "LRB of music" that keeps getting mooted on ILX and on UK music press threads) but also magazines like The Believer and McKinsey's, I guess. The problem is that launching that kind of publication isn't a way to make a living - it's funding to keep the project going, rather than to put shoes on the feet of the people doing it.
Political/economic think tanks - who funds them? We used to put "Pop Culture Think Tank" as the strapline of Freaky Trigger - it wasn't (or I didn't manage make it such) but I liked the phrase and the concept: that's another model. I guess philanthropists fund some of them, interested parties another. Who would be the DDR's interested parties? Who benefits from the work you/we/it would do?
Finally, business also pays people to think - consultants, futurologists, trend spotters, analysts. They pay people really quite a lot of money, though they tend to be proprietary about the ideas that result. Could the DDR pitch itself in any of those terms - could it produce saleable ideas that would be in dialogue with its more public or freeform output? It's possible that commercial pressure, somewhat like a good editor, would actually encourage the completion and development of ideas.