Improving Think Tank Management

The Challenge

Think tanks have been effective in improving government decision making through strong research married with well-conceived and -delivered policy engagement programs. In addition to research programs and policy engagement, there is a third component of strong organizations – management – that has been shown to be linked to the production of stronger policy research and its effective delivery to decision makers. Despite common challenges in improving management, much more attention and resources are devoted to strengthening the research capacity and quality of organizations, a necessary but insufficient approach to supporting think tanks in ultimately effectively improving policies.

The Opportunity

Taking into account the need for strong research, communications, and management to achieve effective think tank performance, there is an opportunity to improve think tank performance by providing evidence and actionable lessons to think tanks and donors regarding good management practices and seeking to ensure take up of these lessons.  Improving management practices of think tanks will improve their overall effectiveness in three key ways:

  • Our first and primary intermediate outcome is to contribute to the better functioning and management of think tanks.  The means through which we will achieve this outcome is the updating and expansion of Raymond Struyk’s Managing Think Tanks (see attached).
  • Our second intermediate outcome is to contribute to stronger engagement of think tanks with key audiences and the communication of policy research to them.  The contribution in this case is indirect through better staff management, stronger monitoring of outputs and intermediate outcomes of communications activities, quality control of the whole range of products used to communicate results and other management practices. Creating proper management practices is essential for successful think tank programs to operate.
  • Our third intermediate outcome is to contribute to better quality policy research being designed and implemented by policy-research organizations through improved management practices.

Our Work

R4D will lead two related and essential activities in pursuit of the above anticipated outcomes.  First, R4D Expert Ray Struyk will develop a more informed, compelling and updated guide to strong think tank management practices with concrete and actionable best practices for better management as well as case studies and strategies used by real organizations to improve management.  Second, R4D will seek to ensure that the actionable information from this resource that is targeted to specific audiences makes it into the hands and ultimately policies of think tanks and those donors who support them. Critically, the book will provide a comprehensive source for strong practices on a range of management functions, making it much easier for managers to find information than trolling through blogs to find short and insufficient information bites.

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