I had a very interesting conversation with Andrea Ordonez from Grupo FARO today. We were talking about how to organise the research programmes of the think tank and it occurred to us that there is often a tension between how research is organised internally and how it is presented -mainly through a website. When I was at ODI this was a constant struggle: hence the lists of programmes, themes and regions; never mind the long list of resources.
The reality of course is that work at ODI is not organised by any of these categories.
Internally, research needs to be organised to maximise quality and efficiency -it must help to manage, work across the organisation, win business, attract new staff, etc. Externally, it must be organised to influence (inform or educate) its public. Two different audiences and objectives.
So it should be easier if one separate both -internal about management, external about influence- and recognise that there does not need to be an automatic link between both. All research and analysis is not worth being published -nor, in my opinion, should we publish different types of outputs next to each other as if they were comparable: books, journal articles, reports, opinion pieces and blogs all have their place.
Furthermore, external organisation of research (the presentation and communication of research) ought to present a coherent policy message. How else could someone make a decision?
So how to present research? I’ve been looking at some front pages (which is one way of presenting research outside of the organisation) and have found some approaches (but note that there are many overlaps):
- The all we do approach: for example the Overseas Development Institute, the Centre for Global Development and the Institute for Development Studies
- The flagship reports or features approach: for example, Res Publica, the Institute for Government, (to a lesser extend) Brookings and The Gateway House
- The news or about us approach: for example, CIPPEC, the Centre for Poverty Analysis (although they also have an element of all we do), and the African Center for Economic Transformation (although they are reviewing their site)
- The people approach: I have not found any examples of this but ACET’s communications’s officer, Sheila Ochugboju, is developing a knowledge management system built around people (more on this soon) -and this got me thinking that a think tank’s research could be organised around people.
Does anyone else have examples of these? Or any other? Maybe favourite think tank websites that may be presented as best practices?
Please send your recommendations.