July 2, 2016 Print

It takes more to operate a successful think tank than knowledge of sound economics, prudent public policy, and the ideas of liberty — it also requires a thorough grounding in a wide array of organizational procedures, management, and networking. At a recent Think Tank Startup Training, 26 individuals from European countries including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine participated in interactive sessions on strategic planning, fundraising, and communication.

Sessions were led by leaders of the free-market movement in the United States and Europe, including Joseph G. Lehman, president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, and Matthew Sinclair of Westbourne Communications and former chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, and more. Participants left knowing how to create a business plan for their think tank, how to identify allies and build coalitions to accelerate impact, how to design a winning policy campaign, and how to draft a long-term fundraising strategy.

“Policy expertise doesn’t automatically translate to everything needed to operate a think tank,” Lehman said. “I love to help fellow freedom fighters leverage their passion and become better strategic planners, communicators, and fundraisers.”

Joseph G. Lehman, president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

This year’s European Think Tank Start-Up Training was hosted by the Lithuanian Free Market Institute, winner of the 2014 Templeton Freedom Award, in Vilnius, Lithuania, from June 20–22.

“In order to effectively champion free markets, think tanks often need to make themselves heard among many other voices in complex policy debates,” Sinclair said. “That requires great content and compelling messages. The best messages are relevant to people’s day-to-day concerns, expressed in simple terms everyone can understand at a glance and have an emotional pull with the audiences that matter. The training conference in Vilnius was a fantastic opportunity to talk to talented people starting exciting young think tanks. I hope they came away with insights that will make their work even more effective."