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On Think Tanks was founded in mid 2010. It has evolved from a blog into a global platform dedicated to study and support policy research and policy research centres, or think tanks. The members of the On Think Tanks Team and its Advisory Board are spread out across 6 continents!

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Think tank’s governance and management

The governance and management of think tanks and policy research organisations is not an easy subject to discuss. It is full of complexities, and the discussion has to take into consideration the different contexts in which think tanks operate. There is not a cookie cut model for effective governance, but there are certainly some guidelines that organisations in all contexts would benefit from following. What is the best governance and management structure for a think tank? How does it affect its work and how can it drive research? Who is at the heart of our work - our outputs or our people? This series compiles sixteen opinion pieces, case studies, interviews, and shared experiences intended to give an overview of the discussion on the topic.
  1. 1

    Creating an environment conducive for success: a think tank is only as good as it is managed and governed

    At On Think Tanks we publish articles on a wide range of themes that are of concern to think tanks and policy research centres. This is, after all, the nature of our work. We also have an outstanding pool of collaborators who contribute to the expanse of our thematic, adding views and sharing... Read full article
  2. 2

    Better Sooner than Later: Addressing think tanks’ governance and management challenges to take full advantage of new funding and support opportunities

    In this first of three posts I outline the importance of addressing Governance and Management challenges early on in any capacity development effort. Leaving these issues for later can lead to insurmountable problems later on and unnecessary waste of the resources allocated to think tanks. Getting the foundations and the basic structure right is crucial. Read full article
  3. 3

    What keeps think tank directors up at night? reflections on funding, staffing, governance, communications and M&E

    Over the last year or so I've been discussing challenges (as well as opportunities) with many think tank bosses and their funders. From time to time I've published a few reviews or broad recommendations. I've had the chance to review several think tanks for my book (coming soon) as well as... Read full article
  4. 4

    Think Tank Boards: Composition and Practices

    Introduction Like any organisation, think tanks must have a solid and appropriate governance structure to enable them to deliver their missions. An important aspect of this is the presence of a strong and independent Board of Directors that is successful in procuring financial resources for its... Read full article
  5. 5

    Strengthening Grupo FARO’s Board of Directors

    Orazio Bellettini, Director of Grupo FARO in Ecuador, writes about his think tank's Board and what they have learned trying to strengthen it. He argues that it is not enough for them to include well known and knowledgeable individuals but that they must also have the right skills to govern a think tank. As a consequence, he calls for the development of a generation of new think tank leaders who may take-on senior management and governing roles in the future. Read full article
  6. 6

    Getting the most out of your board – the Managing Think Tanks series

    Most think tanks around the world have a board of trustees or directors that oversee the think tank’s functions and performance. The board can be a very valuable asset, and yet, problems abound within them. This is due to factors such as ill-defined roles, an ineffective use of its members’... Read full article
  7. 7

    Why pay attention to management? -the Managing Think Tanks series

    The title of this blog post is also the title of the first chapter of Ray Struyk's book, Managing Think Tanks. During the following weeks, we will be publishing chapter summaries in order to delve deeper into governance structures, staff management, improving leadership and streamlining... Read full article
  8. 8

    Creating team leaders – the Managing Think Tanks Series

    There cannot be good research organisation without a good team leader. This week’s final Managing Think Tanks chapter is all about team leaders, also known as center directors, department heads, division managers, etc. Their responsibilities, aside carrying out projects, include keeping... Read full article
  9. 9

    The Policy Entrepreneur: Simon Maxwell (Part 2)

    Simon Maxwell, former director of the Overseas Development Institute, is now a Senior Research Associate of the ODI, he chairs the Climate Change and Development Knowledge Network and leads the European Development Cooperation Strengthening Programme. He is also currently Chair the World... Read full article
  10. 10

    Director’s profiles and how to replace them

    Leandro Echt has published an interesting synthesis of think tank directors' background, profiles and qualities via Politics and Ideas. I reproduce some key points here but encourage you to read the full article: Think Tank Directors. The best director Leandro correctly identifies the... Read full article
  11. 11

    Resources for executive directors: competences, structure and tools

    In this post we provide a synthesis of Tomás Garzón de la Roza's review of the literature and a few experiences on executive directors. He explores their competences, the structures they need, and a key tool they can use to improve their performance (and of their organisations). Read full article
  12. 12

    Better Sooner than Later: Addressing think tanks’ governance and management (Boards, Executive Directors, Senior Management Teams, and central services)

    This post outlines a number of important governance and management challenges that think tanks face and that should be dealt with early on in any capacity development effort. They include issues related to their boards, the executive direction, senior management, central services, and the way in which research is organised. Read full article
  13. 13

    From managing research to mentoring: an effective mechanism for a generational transition

    Raquel Zelaya, Director of ASIES in Guatemala, writes about a change process that ushered a generational change in the organisation's management. ASIES faced a challenge that many think tanks face today: how to transition from the founding generation of researchers to a newer one? This post describes how they did it. Read full article
  14. 14

    Director transitions: Unavoidable and necessary

    “I’ve been in this job for too long. I’ve run out of ideas.” This is the unfortunate confession of the director of a think tank I met in Serbia a few years ago. The organisation had been a player in its time but had lost its direction. Most directors would not be brave enough to... Read full article
  15. 15

    Leadership transitions: lessons from three Latin American think tanks

    Think tank’s executive directors need to deal with a huge diversity of issues: from budgetary decisions to communicational ones; from organisational engineering to staffing and leadership. Moreover, they are always interacting with a broad range of stakeholders, both at the external and... Read full article
  16. 16

    Better Sooner than Later: Addressing think tanks’ governance and management (Line management, staffing, and monitoring for management)

    This last post about Governance and Management presents a discussion on staffing, line management, and monitoring for management. It encourages think tanks and their funders to deal with the elephant in the room sooner than later. Read full article
  17. 17

    The next capacity development “thing”: Management for Researchers

    We have seen important improvements in think tanks' communications capacities. It is time that we focused on management. Enrique Mendizabal argues that the next big push in think tank capacity building should focus "management for researchers" -which is not the same as project management. Read full article
  18. 18

    A workmance: Executive Directors and their Heads of Research or Policy

    On my way to a meeting of Latin American think tanks in Guatemala (to launch ILAIPP and learn about social inclusion) I picked up the airline's magazine and found a very interesting article about the relationship between CEOs and their Creative Directors (of relevant companies). (If you are... Read full article