Book Review: Improving Think Tank Management by Raymond Struyk

19 July 2016

Anyone working or interested in working in the think tanks´ field should have “Improving think tank management” at hand. With an impressive strategy to gather and systematise cutting edge thinking and real practices (and in a savvy and natural way building on what others have already produced), Struyk offers us thoughtful and useful guidance for think tank management.

Internal and exogenous drivers are placing management at the top of the agenda for many think tanks in the world.  There is an increasing awareness and interest in improving key aspects of how these organizations function such as governance, leadership and staff development, sustainability and performance. Being a very particular type of organization, the need for focused advice and ideas is clear cut for those leading these institutions.  Where can they get these?

Struyk´s book is one of the best doors available to answer urgent questions and be inspired by how others are solving or dealing with similar challenges. By simply reading the excellent “take aways” section of a chapter linked to a particular concern, one can easily learn what makes an organization strong (or not). From there are opportunities to dig more deeply into the chapter to find very compelling theoretical and conceptual considerations and discussions emerging from varied literature as well as very concrete real life examples, along with tools, practices and procedures. The menu of ideas, scenarios and options avoids cookie cutter solutions and enables the very diverse group of think tanks to find ways unique to each to improve from where they stand today.

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Furthermore, funders and those supporting think tanks can also clearly benefit from this guidance since the book unravels the implications of each crucial aspect of management for them, both in terms of assessing the real need for specific support in a concrete area and the capacity of the organization to make a good investment of that support.

As the policy arena gets more global and complex, steering think tanks in the right direction will become increasingly difficult: should they become more lean and flexible? Will younger generations want to come and work here? Who will support policy relevant research in the next decade? There are no certain answers. However, probably those genuinely committed to strengthening their institutions year by year and willing to learn and change, will be better positioned to craft good answers. This book provides a unique opportunity to address management challenges and dilemmas to effectively move in this direction.

Last but not least, it paves the way to creating collective and sustainable change, since it talks to the different think tanks´ key stakeholders and acknowledges their important and complementary contributions to improving overall management.