Governments around the world are dealing with increasingly complex problems and trying to better understand ‘what works’ to deliver real change for their populations. One way of addressing this is to create a well-resourced think tank staffed by policy issue experts working closely with government.
There are various ways to establish and manage think tanks, and with is conflicting advice on which models work best, it can be hard to know where to start. For instance, what proportion of staff should be working on corporate or support services compared to research functions? How can senior management instigate quality assurance mechanisms that ensure a coherent organizational ‘voice’ and high quality research? These questions are often left out of academic literature on the subject and leading international think tanks are not very forthcoming on how they manage their internal affairs. Internal management systems such as human resource systems, quality assurance protocols or communications operations remain undisclosed to the general public.
This paper provides concrete guidance for those who want to operate effectively in this space. The authors interviewed a range of practitioners working on these issues in the world’s leading development think tanks. The paper contrasts how influential think tanks engineer their human resource systems, quality assurance mechanisms and communications and outreach to illuminate how we can best help governments get the advice they need, most effectively.