Latin America Think Tank Essentials training focuses on revitalization

Latin America think tank essentials
Photo credit: Francisco Sanchez

Every year, Atlas Network holds a Latin America Think Tank Essentials training, which focuses on providing new think tanks in the region with the tools to establish or revitalize their organizations. With the help of instructors from Contribuyentes por Respeto, Libertad y Desarrollo, and the Archbridge Institute, 13 think tank staffers spent four days in November 2017 in Santiago, Chile, refining their business plans and discussing strategies for strengthening their operations. The following three participants share their workshop experiences and discuss the main challenges that their organizations face.

Jessica Paduan, Executive Director, Instituto Fe y Libertad (Guatemala)
Photo credit: Mariana Zepeda

Many times, the day-to-day and urgent issues of the Institute do not ‘allow’ us to make space to work on strategic issues. This workshop gave us the space to deepen on the importance of having a well-defined strategic and business plan, including a fundraising platform. The techniques learned will help me take actions that contribute to the long-term sustainability of the organization, not only in terms of our ideas and mission, but also in terms of financial stability. A stable organization is capable of generating more impact.

I return to Guatemala not only with more inspiration for continuing with our mission to advance human flourishing through liberty, but also with tangible tools to reevaluate my strategic plan, create a fundraising plan, and create processes to make my work more efficient. With this, I will be able to focus on our big challenges by increasing our credibility to our target groups and expand the pool of "experts" who can contribute to create new material to promote individual liberty. After this workshop, I have tools to establish a sustainable fundraising strategy and establish a timeline for each project.

Finally, the value and impact of knowing so many great people during events like this workshop is priceless.

Alvaro Iriarte, Director of Research, Instituto Res Publica (Chile)
Photo credit: Alvaro Iriarte

One of our main challenges is how to disseminate accurate and timely information through social media in this day and age. This is especially relevant when it comes to working with young audiences (18 to 24). In this context, we have worked on our recent Facebook campaign #VotaInformado (get informed and vote), which summarizes and explains key government programs. This campaign reached an audience of 4 million people.

The sessions on fundraising were helpful to our current work. We also found that learning about the successes of other organizations helped us think about how to revise our internal processes, which we will revisit. We also learned a lot about internal administration and management.

Annabelle Liz, Research Manager, Instituto OMG (Dominican Republic)
Photo credit: Annabelle Liz

Instituto OMG has strong arguments that support our way of thinking, but we need to improve the way that we are disseminating them as well as increase our media presence. Our media and communications person does not work full-time at Instituto OMG (we share resources with our sister consulting firm), which affects our capacity for dissemination of our ideas and research.

Furthermore, there is a lack of research culture in the Dominican Republic and the public does not recognize the importance of producing research. This affects our donor base within our country. Corporations and individuals both prefer to donate to humanitarian organizations or to communities instead of funding original research.

The lessons that we learned in this training have helped me rethink our communications strategy. Among other things, I learned that we need to work on communicating our message through a few means, offering some materials that are academic and others that are more accessible. Not everyone is looking to read an academic paper; many people prefer to read simpler, shorter messages or get information from infographics or videos. I also learned that we not only need to get our message out there, but we need to continue to repeat and amplify it so that it is impactful. Similarly, I learned that it is very important to be able to respond quickly to issues that in in the news, even if this affects our research agenda.