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.

In 2018/2019, the OTT-TTI Fellowship programme combines several existing opportunities and additional support:

  • Participation in the 2018 TTI Global Exchange in Bangkok (11-15 November 2018): 20 young leaders will be invited to join this event.
  • Afterwards, through a second selection process, 10 will join the Fellowship programme. This group will then engage in the following ways:
    • Participation in the 2019 Winterschool in Geneva (27 January – 2 February 2019);
    • One to one mentoring based on a personal development plan developed by the Fellows; and
    • Reflection and dissemination of lessons at their institutional, national and/or regional level to promote new leadership approaches and learning

Who can apply?

To apply for the Fellowship, you:

  • Must be currently working with a TTI supported think tank;+
  • Be a research, communications specialist or hold a management role;
  • Have the ability to work in English;
  • Have a leadership or a management role within a project, team or programme and have an interest in improving your leadership and management skills and abilities+; and
  • Must be committed to completing the nine-month long fellowship programme and to writing up and disseminating learning during and after the programme.
  • If interested individuals would like to apply and have doubts or questions, please contact [email protected] to discuss whether this fellowship may be an appropriate fit.

Is there an age limit to apply?

The purpose of the programme is to support emerging leaders. Thinktankers are, therefore, welcome to apply if they feel that they fall within that category. Applicants will have to discuss their application with their Executive Directors and make a case (to them and to the programme) for their inclusion.

In their decision to apply, applicants should reflect on whether their own commitments and personal and profesional interests are aligned with the programme.

Note: The final choice of participants will take into account our intention to ensure a regional balance and diversity in gender and in roles (between research and communications) across the cohort of young leaders.

What are the key dates in the application process?

The OTT-TTI Fellowship has a two-step application process.

First, 20 young leaders will be invited to join the TTI Exchange in November. They will then have the chance to apply to the Fellowship programme, of which 10 will be selected.+

The timetable for the application is as follows:

Date Activity
1st August Application process opens (1st step of the application process)
7th September Applications due (11:59pm PET)
14th September Initial screening made by the OTT-TTI Fellowship coordinator to ensure that that candidates fulfil basic requirements
24th September A shortlist of young leaders, selected by the OTT-TTI Fellowship coordinator and the OTT director is presented to an external committee made up of a representative of TTI, a member of the OTT Advisory Board and a former OTT Fellow for approval
27th September Up to 20 young leaders selected to participate in the 2018 TTI Exchange
11th to 15th November TTI Exchange in Bangkok (20 young leaders will join one day earlier and stay for an additional day after the TTI Exchange)
23rd November Candidates asked to submit a personal development plan (2nd step)
3rd December A list of 10 candidates, selected by the OTT-TTI Fellowship coordinator and the OTT director, is presented to an external committee (as above) for approval
7th December Ten candidates formally invited to join the 2018/19 OTT-TTI Fellowship. Find out more about the programme.

Selection Process (1st step)

The deadline to apply is September 7, 2018. All candidates will receive a response by 27 September 2018. The process involves:

  • An initial screening will be made by the OTT-TTI Fellowship coordinator to ensure that candidates fulfill basic requirements.
  • A shortlist of 20 candidates, selected by the OTT-TTI Fellowship coordinator and the OTT director will be presented to an external committee made up of a representative of TTI, a member of the OTT Advisory Board and a former OTT Fellow for approval.  

The selection process will be conducted and coordinated by On Think Tanks. TTI will not be directly involved in the selection process, and a TTI representative only be involved at the final stage of approval of selected candidates.

What happens if I am am selected in the first step but not in the second step?

The young leaders who join us in Bangkok and submit a personal development plan, but are unfortunately not included in the Fellowship programme, will still gain access to the OTT School Library of videos and will be invited to sign-up to the Geneva Winterschool for thinktankers as independent participants. They will not need to submit an application (fees do apply, though).

All young leaders will also receive an invitation to the OTT Conference in Geneva in February 2019. This event brings together about 80 to 90 think tank leaders, policy entrepreneurs, funders and policymakers from across the world. (OTT does not provide travel or accommodation support.)

What will be expected from the Fellows?

The Fellowship is hard work for the Fellows. It demands a long-term commitment.

In addition to participation in events such as the Think Tank Initiative Exchange and the Winterschool, and the support provided by mentors, Fellows will be actively engaged over the 9 month program. For instance, Fellows will be expected to actively engage in the process and share their progress and reflections with their peers and with the wider thinktanking community through interviews and articles published on OTT. They will receive direct support from OTT’s editor to publish articles on the platform.

At OTT we believe that sharing our experiences and knowledge is the best contribution that we can make to support a global community of think tanks and policy entrepreneurs.

Fellows will also keep up-to-date learning journals (based on their personal development plans) which will be discussed in monthly online group and personal discussions with their mentors.

To graduate, Fellows will be asked to:

  • Submit a report based on their personal development plans and record an interview to document their own assessment of their progress through the programme. All Fellows are expected to submit a report
  • Organise internal meetings at their own organisations to report on their year-long involvement in the Fellowship. At least one mentor will join in on these events via Skype.

Find out more about the Fellowship programme.

What happens next?

The Fellows who complete the programme will join On Think Tanks growing community of associates, collaborators, and partners. They will draw from their peers’ advice and support for years to come.

Fellows also have access to the OTT School library (for life) and will receive a dedicated newsletter with news and information for them.

How to apply?

1st step: Selection for the Think Tank Initiative Exchange in November 2018

To apply please complete the following application form by 31st August:

Apply to the OTT-TTI Fellowship (step 1)

Those selected will join the Bangkok TTI Exchange. Please see the Fellowship programme for details of what this involves.

2nd step: Selection for the full Fellowship program, December 2018-August 2019

This step is only open to those 20 young leaders selected in the first step. To apply, you will be asked to submit a personal development plan after the TTI Exchange, by 23rd November 2018.

These applications will be reviewed by the same panel as in the first step (described above in Key dates). The personal development plans will be assessed in the context of the young leaders’ interactions between each other and with other participants during the TTI Exchange and will consider the potential impact that the Fellowship will have on them and on their organisations.

The final choice will take into account a desire to ensure a  diversity in gender among the participants as well as their roles and regions of origin.

We are committed to developing inclusive, barrier-free selection processes and work environments, and seek to bring these principles to the Fellowship programme.

We will offer feedback to all.

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.