Improving think tank management: Calling all think tanks


Becoming a highly effective think tank requires more than just producing quality research and having robust policy engagement. High-performing think tanks seeking to improve development policies, conditions and discourses, also need to exhibit and engage in strong management practices.

In Improving Think Tank Management, a comprehensive revision and reorientation of the the widely used and respected Managing Think Tanks, Raymond Struyk, in partnership with Results for Development, is seeking to highlight the experiences of think tanks and policy research organisations who have improved their own management practices and policies.  

To do this, they need your help!

If your organization has experience in one of the topics listed  below, you and your organization could be featured in Improving Think Tank Management as well as receive monetary compensation of USD $500 for your work on the case study.

How to apply:

  • After selecting a topic from the list below, draft and submit a 200-300 word brief describing your organization’s experience with the topic, including the problem faced, the policy or practice used to overcome the problem, and, very importantly, the effectiveness of this solution using some type of objective indicators.
  • Submit your brief to Courtney Tolmie (ctolmie@r4d.orgon or before November 10, 2013. There is no limit to the number of briefs an organization can submit.  When you send the brief, please note in the email the name of the author, organization, and topic selected from the list below.
You will be notified on or before November 15, if we would like to share your experiences in Improving Think Tank Management.  If selected, you will be asked to expand your brief into 1,000-1,200 word case studies that may be included in the book and for which you will receive USD $500 compensation. Overall, we will be commissioning up to twenty case studies.
We look forward to hearing your experiences with think tank management improvements!  If you have any questions, please feel welcome to email Courtney Tolmie (

List of potential topics:

  1. Development and implementation of an explicit, written staff incentive strategy
  2. Implementation of a comprehensive staff assessment process
  3. Adjustments made to the job descriptions, hiring criteria, or performance indicators for senior research staff to include active participation in social media
  4. Development and implementation of an orientation program for new staff
  5. Development and implementation of an annual training program
  6. For larger organizations, development and implementation of a program for training new research team leaders in their management tasks and personnel leadership responsibilities
  7. Implementation of an efficient quality control process for written products needing quick and timely review, including blog postings
  8. Implementation of a thorough but efficient review procedure for presentations at conferences, press briefings and similar events
  9. Describe a case where the managing board had traditionally been substantially involved in personnel, procurement and similar issues, and then the organization’s leaders worked with its board so that it now focuses on more strategic issues such as the broad oversight of the effectiveness of the think tank’s research and communications programs
  10. Think tank management and the board shifted from a tradition where there was little communication between the organization’s president and the board between board meetings to one where the board receives regular updates on the organization’s activities and major publications and are consulted individually occasionally on significant issues within their own expertise between meetings (for boards meeting a maximum for four times per year)
  11. An example of an organization deciding to add a major new policy area to its work program
  12. An example of an organization deciding to add a non-policy research area to its work program, e.g., offering courses in policy analysis or advocacy and coalition building
  13. An example of an organization deciding to add consulting services to its work program with clients being government agencies or for-profit entities such as banks or survey firms
  14. Design and implementation of a “time sheet system”
  15. Implementation of a strong procedure for computing its indirect cost rate (overhead rate)
  16. Establishment of a comprehensive set of indicators for use by senior management to track the organization’s performance in a range of areas, including but not limited to effectiveness in policy engagement