Better Think Tanking
The world of think tanks lacks diversity. We think the reasons for this lies in its professional culture, traditional networks and management practices, which are marked by unchecked biases, intersectional discrimination and a generational divide.
Starting our career in foreign policy, we were shocked by the traditional roles and biases in the professional world. Suddenly, we found ourselves in a field in which gender, class, race and superficial abilities matter more than ever before - and more than they should.
Compared to their counterparts in bureaucracies and for-profit companies, think tanks play on an image of being forward-looking. But innovation is just as hard and in areas like diversity targets and professional hiring practices, the public and private sectors are often more advanced.
With a mission and workforce dedicated to inclusive values, holding power accountable and promoting better solutions, think tanks are in an ideal position to advance the standard of how to run an organization to move society forward. The sector has some of the greatest and most dedicated talent, but it way too often leaves this potential unused. While entry level positions may be filled with more diverse talent than ever before, people who don’t fit the standard, outdated model of the traditional expert struggle.
We firmly believe that the essence of think tanking - its raison d’être - is speaking truth to power and pressuring more traditional sectors to be better. Scientific evidence shows that diversity means better results and fostering it is the right thing to do. There is a young, courageous generation that is tired of existing biases and the lack of diversity in international organizations, in the public and private sectors, that calls out the racism, sexism, classism, ableism and lack of professionalism in hiring, management and professional development practices. These are our future partners.
We cannot wait for our funders to progress and find themselves surrounded by a non-profit sector that has become obsolete because it failed to see that subject matter expertise won’t matter if it doesn’t come from a diversity of perspectives that follows its own best advice.
This is why we decided to act and start a movement for a more conscious and reflective non-profit and think tanking practice. We want to turn things on their head and show the sector that it finally has to practice what it preaches if it wants to be taken seriously as innovative, bold and principled. Instead of being complacent and finding excuses in institutional and financial constraints, think tanks have to invest in conscious management and leadership now.
Our vision is that by 2030, promotions to leadership positions in think tanks are as much based on people’s subject matter expertise as they are on their track-record in advancing their field with regards to a professional culture, dedicated to organizational development that honors the principles of diversity, progress and inclusion. Because if you don’t help your organization move society forward in a holistic way, what do you really have to offer as a think tanker?
We believe this requires a movement from the bottom up. We want to join forces with people from our field who share our vision. Young think tankers, we often don’t have formalized management and organizational development training. But we are privileged and have a responsibility. The information is out there for us to discover and take back into our institutions to show them that we can be better before we risk becoming irrelevant.
Are you in?