It is not often that we embark in self-reflective exercises. Who has the time? Instead, we push right ahead and hope that the one thing we know how to do well is the right thing to do.
It is therefore great when people make the time to reflect and share what they have learned. Nick Scott and Jeff Knezovich are good examples of this kind of professional. Simon Maxwell and Orazio Bellettini are two directors who put time to think about their work. Goran Buldioski is a particularly reflective donor. There are others, of course.
Vanesa Weyrauch has published a paper on the lessons she and her team and colleagues have learned from years of working to strengthen the capacity of researchers and policymakers to connect the communities of politics and ideas in Latin America: Lessons learned: harvesting the fruits of collaborative work and reflection.
The paper covers a number of lessons in great detail but here are some that I think are worth highlighting (detain is in the paper):
- Lesson 3: Tradition works well to build a reputation but this should not mean that think tanks should avoid innovation in new ways of research and communication.
- Lesson 5: Not everyone will benefit from capacity building interventions in the same way so interventions should be careful in identifying participants.
- Lesson 7: Capacity building works better when the organisations are the clients -i.e. the pay for it- than when someone else pick up the bill.
- Lesson 11: Short term interventions do not provide opportunities to assess the real level of the capabilities and skills of the participants.
There are many others.
There is also an extensive list of very important studies and documents (including toolkits and guidelines) that would be useful for think tanks and their funders.