// you’re reading...

Think Tanks

US: “Start With A Smile” And Other Tips For Successful Networks – by Alejandro Chafuen

Share this article:

The approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement got a big push from the “NAFTA coalition.” The coalition, led by the Fraser Institute, was one of the first networks to win a policy battle in favor of free markets. It included most freedom-oriented think tanks from North America. While NAFTA became a reality, the current effort to enhance trade between the U.S. and Europe, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), might falter due to the lack of a network of supportive think tanks.

Networks of think tanks and NGOs have been active in efforts that go beyond economics, such as the current developments in Ukraine and Venezuela. Another battle that can’t be won by one country alone is the battle against corruption and cronyism. If countries replace rule of law with rule of privilege or by government decree, it will be almost impossible for the U.S. to retain what remains of the global free enterprise system.

Although written for managers in the public sector, Governing by Network, (GbN), a book by Stephen Goldsmith and William D. Eggers, contains many insights for all types of networksIt is one of Brookings most successful publications. Foreign think tanks such as CEDICE in Venezuela, and Istituto Bruno Leoni, in Italy, published Spanish and Italian translations. Several of the conclusions can be applied to think tank networks.

Value

Globalization: As globalization rapidly increases, winning policy battles has also become a global endeavor. Global and regional networks become essential for policy reform.

Networks as safety mechanismsWith governments that abuse power and try to silence critics, being part of an international network, with the headquarters far removed from the grasp of local government, can yield better chances for success and survival. If it were not for civil society networks, the Venezuelan government could have continued with its repression with total impunity.

“Money is a tool, not the tool, for forming networks” (GbN). When network headquarters provide grants, such as Atlas, CIPE or SPN (see table above), the members put considerable value on those grants. Even more than the money, most independent and respected think tanks tend to place higher value on the training, recommendations, connections, and research blueprints.

Challenges

Measuring outcomes: Networks can suffer the problem of the “commons,” especially when they need to be decentralized. There is considerable overlap in the membership of free market networks. After the victory of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in his 2012 recall election, several politically oriented think tank and advocacy networks sent similar letters to donors, stressing their role as key drivers of the victory. Also, leaders of networks take credit that their members publish thousands of op-eds in major publications. Donors love collaboration, but for them and network managers alike, it is hard to discern how much each member contributed to an outcome.

Data processing:  “To successfully manage a network you will need to develop a new set of core competencies” (GbN). One of the most difficult is how to capture key information without creating major privacy, security, and legal risks. Governments, foreign enemies, and competitors have been able to access private databases and information. Capturing essential actionable information in databases, and devising other methods to share the more sensitive information, is essential to grow networks and minimize risks.

Cultural differences: The more successful networks have attracted, trained, and retained staff that respects the culture in the region of each member. This is important for choosing the right projects and also for providing the right management advice. It is important to engage groups beyond think tanks: for-profits, media companies, and allies in government. Each of these sectors have a different business culture.

Recommendations

Give as much credit as possible to members: The success of a network depends on the success of its members. This is especially true in policy as it is essential that the effort of a think tank be seen as originating locally, not from a distant capital. Here, the recommendation is to create several points of contact among network partners and to establish joint governance structures and share decision-making. Managers should not overwhelm network partners with excessive compliance burdens.

Choose the right strategy:  For most networks, Goldsmith and Eggers recommend flexibility. They write, “A flexible structure can help a network cope with uncertainty by allowing organizations to respond quickly to unforeseen events … everything, including contracts, should be dynamic, not static, with opportunities for constant learning and adapting.” Over a decade ago, after only a few years of operation, a network of free-market think tanks in Brazil failed. According to prominent members, the mistake was a misguided strategy of “trying to implement a centralized model for members who cherish a liberal and individualistic culture.”

“Start with a smile”: Guillermo Martínez Casán is in charge of networking for the European Ideas Network (EIN). Although the network includes members from the same political coalition, sometimes their ideology can be very different: German Christian Democrats, Dutch and Belgian Social Democrats, Conservatives, even independent academics and networkers. Given his success at bringing together a wide diversity of players, I asked Guillermo for his secret. He answered, “Always start meetings with a big smile and pull down barriers.” For networks with a growing, diverse, and changing membership this advice is a must.

* Alejandro Antonio (Alex) Chafuen, Ph.D., has been president of Atlas Economic Research Foundation since 1991. A member of the board of advisors to The Center for Vision & Values and a trustee of Grove City College, he is also the president and founder of the Hispanic American Center of Economic Research. Dr. Chafuen serves on several boards including the Chase Foundation of Virginia, the Acton Institute, the Fraser Institute (Canada), and is an Active Honorary Member of the John Templeton Foundation.

Source: Forbes.com

(Total: 20 - Today: 1 )

Discussion

No comments for “US: “Start With A Smile” And Other Tips For Successful Networks – by Alejandro Chafuen”

Post a comment

Connect to HACER.ORG

FB Group

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Support HACER today!

HACER is a tax-exempt organization under Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, our supporters will find their donations to be tax-deductible. Donate online now!