Initiative

On Think Tanks Fellowship Programme

Every year, On Think Tanks opens its doors to young and promising think tank leaders to co-develop a new global leadership paradigm. The 2018 OTT-TTI Fellowship Programme has been designed in collaboration with the Think Tank Initiative.

No one would deny the increasing complexity, urgency and interdependency of the challenges involved in research and public policy. Our governments are facing problems that they will not be able to address without solid and fruitful alliances with non-State players: think tanks have a unique opportunity to broker these new relationships and strengthen old ones.

To succeed, they will have to challenge the status quo – of their own business models, their policy research communities and the broader political, economic and social environments.

Younger generations bring a fresh and creative perspective to age-old problems. We want to embrace this to trigger change together.

Every year On Think Tanks opens its doors to young and promising think tank leaders to co-develop a new global leadership paradigm.

We define young in broad terms: emerging leaders, future leaders, leaders in the making or the next generation of leaders. They may be early career thinktankers, fresh out of university, or more experienced researchers or communicators who have made the choice to take on leadership responsibilities with in their organisations.

This year, the OTT-TTI Fellowship Programme has been designed in collaboration with the Think Tank Initiative. It aims to help young thinktankers to become real agents of change capable of transforming their organisations and making them healthier, more aligned with global possibilities and challenges, and capable of achieving a larger and deeper contribution to their people and communities.

The TTI collaboration will make it possible to work with thinktankers within the cohort of think tanks supported by the global initiative over the last 9 years. By supporting the development of leadership skills among the new generation of thinktankers, the programme will contribute to the TTI’s legacy beyond the end of its support, due to end in March 2019. Out of stronger think tanks will emerge stronger leaders.



With a focus on inclusivity, this programme will strive to ensure a diversity in gender and roles (research and communications) across the cohort of young leaders.

The programme:

  • Provides future and emerging young leaders with an opportunity to strengthen capacities and fine-tune skills and competencies that will contribute to their leadership roles within their organisations;
  • Offers future think tank leaders an opportunity to network and learn from current and past leaders in the think tank world as well as exchange experiences and lessons with each other; and
  • Offers emerging leaders a chance to help shape the development of future generations of leaders.

Stage 2 of the Fellowship application process

If you were successful in making it through stage 1 of the application process and would like to proceed to stage 2, please read on.

The Fellowship aims to stretch you in intellectual, practical and experiential terms as a means to improve your practice in your think tank. As such the ten selected OTT-TTI Fellows will need the:

  • Commitment to challenge and change one’s way of thinking about, and doing, what one does: before you can influence others in your think tank and beyond, you may need to challenge your own ideas and beliefs about how organisations change and what you need to do to facilitate this
  • Capacity to know oneself: instigating change can often be an uncomfortable process, having to deal with your own frustrations, excitements and anxieties as well as the feelings associated with being exposed to the difficult feelings of others.
  • Capacity for reflection (on one’s own and with others, in writing and orally): paying attention to your own practice can be transformative for you and your think tank. Solutions to problems are rarely found in advance but through trying something and reflecting on it afterwards.
  • Ability to act and think independently: in improving your think tank practices, you may need to question taken-for-granted views about your think tank and how it changes. You may also need to set an example, go against prevailing norms, in a bid to encourage others to follow suit.
  • Commitment to working with colleagues at work as well as other fellows: it’s unlikely you will improve your practices on your own. Learning and improvement is usually a social process, where conversation and feedback from your colleagues and other OTT-TTI Fellows will be vital.
  • Commitment to reading or viewing relevant literature and audio/visual material: you will be expected to read and make sense of some of the resources relating to understanding and managing change in organisations (including think tanks) that exists online, including the OTT website.
  • Commitment to putting aside sufficient time: all of the above will require a significant amount of time. For instance, last year’s fellows put in on average 2-3 hours a week to read, reflect, write and converse with mentors, colleagues and other fellows.

And these are the same attributes that we will be looking for during stage 2 of the application process.

The application process involves the submission of a written statement, which does the following:

  1. Describes the dominant ideas and beliefs, which shape your research, communications and/or management work and how this has evolved during your career/life
  2. Describes how your own (research, communication or management) practices have evolved in recent years and why
  3. Describes how you have responded/reacted to change processes
  4. Reflects on change within your think tank (or attempts to promote change), the role you played, how you made sense of it and identifies key learning points. This should build on and deepen the narrative produced during stage 1 (where this was done).
  5. Further elaborate on and specify the central questions/issues (personal and professional) you want to explore over the course of the fellowship and what steps you will take to find answers

Some advice about the statement

  • You are limited to 750 words.
  • Please follow the instructions above. In relation to point 3, please focus on change (or attempts to change) working practices inside (not outside) your think tank
  • We encourage you to draw on your participation during the TTIX and side events as an input to your application
  • If you are new to your think tank, please use examples from a previous work place/organisational setting

Please email your narrative in a word document to [email protected]  before 23:59 on Friday 23rd November PET (GMT – 5).

We will present a list of 10 candidates to an external committee for discussion and approval on 3rd December

All applicants will be notified of the result on 7th December

Any questions?

Please contact us on [email protected]


This initiative is kindly supported by the Think Tank Initiative.

And we recognise the long term support of the Hewlett Foundation.