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Think Tank Mentoring: Lending a Hand to Nascent Think Tanks

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9 pages

Think Tank Mentoring: Lending a Hand to Nascent Think Tanks

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Ajouté le : 21 juillet 2011
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NORC’sThink Tank Research Advocacy Organization Mentoring ProgramFostering Independent Policy Research and Advocacy
What is think tank mentoring?
What makes a good think tank?
Whatis NORC’strack record in mentoring policy think tanks and civil society organizations?
What projects, publications, and tools has NORC developed to evaluate the effectiveness of mentoring projects for policy research organizations?
Who areNORC’sthink tank mentoring experts? What is think tank mentoring?Think tank mentoring requires sustained ANALYST OFRECORDcooperation between a mature partner institution Senior FellowRaymond Struykand an evolving think tank. The mentoring spearheads NORC’s Think Tank institution must be able to identify the priorityResearch Advocacy Organization needs of the evolving think tank and be committedMentoring Program. His ground breaking publications and to improving itseffectiveness,efficiency, and consultations have contributed to sustainability. The evolving institution must be a developing the capacity of many receptive partner and be open for cooperative nascent policy organizations to interaction with the mature institution. NORC’s understand and participate mission for its think tank mentoring program is to effectively in the policy making develop outstanding regional mentoring capacity inprocess. think tanks throughout the world through: Effectiveness, whichis measured by the institution’s impact on the policy development and implementation process, as well as by how successfully it informs the country’s citizens on key issues of the day. Beyond the quality of its analysis, the organization’s communications strategy and execution areessential.Efficiency, which is the ability to employ resources well. Motivating staff and improving their capabilities, effectively supporting analysis with information technology and other services, carefully tracking the use of funds, and managing
THINK TANK MENTORING: LENDING A HAND TO NASCENT THINK TANKSApril 19, 2010 projects to produce high quality analysis on time and within the budget are key elements of efficiency.Sustainability, whichbegins with diligent control ofthe quality of an institution’s research, and is essential to maintaining anorganization’s reputation. Identifying and following through on emerging policy issues in a timely manner ensures the relevance ofan organization’s work. And, of course, successful fundraising is fundamental to financial security.
What makes a good think tank? Attributes of a strong think tankProducing relevant research and analysis that meets international standards; Implementing and maintaining an effective quality control system; Communicating findings to an interested and informed audience through a variety of tools and media; Motivating staff to consistently produce high quality and innovative work, and evaluating their performance so that they continuously improve their skills; Encouraging innovativeness by not only shifting the institution’s agendatoward national policy priorities, but also independently identifying latent policy issues, addressing them, and weaving them into the policy dialogue; Recognizing the importance to theinstitution’sfinancial well-being by (1) managing the institution carefully; (2) calculating an overhead rate that is rational, defensible, and adequate for cost recovery; (3) controlling appropriately all project costs; (4) investing wisely discretionary funds; and (5) sharing readily the results of annual financial audits with clients; Taking advantage of the entrepreneurial instincts of the institution’s leadership and continuously monitor how well the institution competes for work; and Selecting carefully engaged board members and employing their advice to broaden the organization’spolicy reach and stimulate thinking about potential new directions.
What is NORC’s track record in mentoring policy think tanks and civil society organizations? When current NORC senior staff began working in Eastern Europe in 1990, they identified nascent think tanks with whom to partner. Some were nonprofit, others for profit, but all had one thing in commona strong desire to improve the public policies of their mother countries and to participate actively in the process of economic restructuring.
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THINK TANK MENTORING: LENDING A HAND TO NASCENT THINK TANKSApril 19, 2010 NORC’s current senior staffsaw working with these nascent think tanks as both an opportunity and a challenge. It was an opportunity to employthe think tanks’ knowledge of the local situation, their language skills, and their contacts to develop a strong team ready to work on programs. It was a challenge, however, to introduce the local researchers to a new analytical paradigm and their firms to market-based business practices. Our experience with the Institute for Urban Economics (IUE) in Moscow is exemplar, as described below.
INSTITUTE FORURBANECONOMICSIUEOur most successful partner so far is located in Russia, a country that has experienced one of the most difficult transitions from the socialist model. Six of the smartest and most dedicated professionals who were once staff on a multi-year USAID housing finance project directed byNORC’s Raymond Struyk, created IUE in 1995. It seemed the logical step to sustain and build on the momentum resulting from a very successful project. Now, IUE employs more than 80 professionals and has expanded and deepened its expertise from exclusively housing policy to poverty and social assistance, municipal economic development, transportation, and social infrastructure (health and education). Equally important, IUE’s management systems have matured with its growth, making it in many ways a model for other think tanks in the region. While employed with The Urban Institute, Raymond Struyk partnered on many projects with IUE over the years. More recently, IUE served as the lead on such partnerships. IUE is now one of the leading policy think tanks in Russia. See www.Urbaneconomics.ru
What’s in NORC’s tool boxto evaluate the effectiveness of mentoring projects for policy research organizations? While working with and mentoring think tanks has been the primary focusof NORC’s work, more recently, our team has worked with a broader array of civil society organizations, which we often refer to as Research-Advocacy Organizations (RAOs), and Policy Research Organizations (PRO). We found that many of the materials we developed for think tanks transfer readily to the RAO and PRO environment with modest adaptation. Since 2007, the NORC team has performed several on-site RAO and PRO assessments, and has conducted a series of workshops in Indonesia for such organizations. The bulk of our work has resulted in publications whose contributions to the think tank, RAO, and PRO mentoring process are significant.
An essential first step when working with an individual organization ora country’sRAO and PRO community is to understand the comparative strengths and weaknesses of these organizations. The NORC team has conducted dozens of diagnostics over the years and have well-developed guides for this purpose. Our most recent assessments were conducted in Bosnia, Jordan, and Azerbaijan.
In the call-outs below, we provide examples of our work.
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