March 5, 2018 Print

Photo: Ariel Zambelich, Harvard Business Review

Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an Atlas Network partner based in Washington D.C., has been published in the Harvard Business Review online and in the March-April 2018 print magazine, a significant event as this marks one of the first times the publication has featured a nonprofit like AEI.

The article, titled “AEI’s President on Measuring the Impact of Ideas,” explores the lasting successes and impact that AEI has had in shaping policy in the last decade. AEI’s work involves a multifaceted approach to promoting ideas of free markets and fiscal responsibility by way of academic research, op-ed writing, educational programs, congressional testimonies, and more.

Part of the great success that AEI has seen is due to the organization’s novel approach to measuring the impact of their work. By determining the demand for certain policy proposals or ideas, the organization can better provide resources to promoting such ideas. Brooks provides two examples in the article: the op-ed market in major newspapers, and the demand for Senate testimonials.

Brooks explains the competitive nature of the op-ed market. Out of the handful of prestigious national newspapers, each receives approximately 1,000 unsolicited op-eds in a regular week. Despite the crowded market, AEI has maintained a well-defined lead over other think tanks in the number of published op-eds.

Senate testimonials work very differently. The only opportunity for an organization or individual to speak before Congress is by invitation. AEI has steadily increased its amount of yearly Senate testimonials; since the 111th Congress (2009-2011), AEI has led all think tanks, across the political spectrum, in number of Senate hearings and testimonies. The data show a heavy congressional demand for the organization’s ideas.

This approach of metrics-dependent and demand-based work by AEI has proven extremely successful over the past decade. The organization’s donation revenue has grown roughly 10 percent annually, and its full-time staff has increased by more than 50 percent since 2008. The AEI model for meeting the demands for ideas has the potential to act as an example for other think tanks seeking to achieve similar levels of success.