November 21, 2017 Print

Think Tank MBA class of 2017.

Just before Atlas Network’s inspirational Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner, 55 think tank leaders from more than 25 countries came together in two separate trainings to refine their skills in leadership, fundraising, strategic planning, and more. Think Tank MBA took place in Fairfax, Va., Oct. 27-Nov. 6, and Think Tank Leadership Training took place in New York City, New York, Nov. 5-7.


Seventeen participants from think tanks in 13 countries gathered in Fairfax, Va., to participate in Atlas Network’s annual Think Tank MBA program. This course is part of Atlas Network’s robust coaching and training programs under Atlas Leadership Academy. During this flagship 10-day strategic planning program for leaders within new and established think tanks, participants draft a strategic plan for their organization, gain customized leadership advice, and compete in the John Blundell Elevator Pitch Competition at Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner.

“[Think Tank MBA] is extremely helpful because we can share our problems and challenges among the entire group and there is always someone who can help to find a solution or has similar experience we can learn from,” said Natalia Macyra, operations manager for the European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE) in Belgium. “It also allows you to look on your tools from new perspective and think about other possibilities to grow and engage your audience.”

Natalia Macyra practices her elevator pitch during Think Tank MBA.

The training included sessions taught by Rainer Heufers, the founder and executive director of the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies in Jakarta, Indonesia, and owner of Siap Solutions, a consulting firm. For the past 10 years, Heufers has annually walked think tank leaders through writing business plans, creating strategic objectives, and fine-tuning mission and vision statements.

“As president of my organization, having the time to sit down and work through a clear, proven methodological framework of developing strategic objectives was immensely valuable to me,” said Michael Sertic, president of the U.S.-based Advocates for Self-Government. “I am already planning to develop two additional strategic objectives to strive toward over the next few years that will advance our organization’s mission. Sharing ideas with other fellows in the program opened me to some unique possibilities for how we might reach out to our existing audience to increase engagement levels.”

Michael Sertic practices his elevator pitch during Think Tank MBA.

Participants spend time during Think Tank MBA working individually and also working in groups to brainstorm with each other ideas for strengthening their organizations’ ability to achieve great victories that advance the cause of liberty in their countries.

“After this experience, of getting away for a few days from everyday chaos, you have the chance to see things in a different optic,” said Garret Edwards, director of legal research at Fundación Libertad in Argentina. “[An optic] that you did not have before arriving to the course. [Think Tank MBA] has been a great opportunity not only to learn specifics about business planning and development, but also to get to know people from all over the world who share the same values we do.”

Garret Edwards practices his elevator pitch during Think Tank MBA.


As Think Tank MBA was wrapping up in Virginia, Think Tank Leadership Training was just beginning in New York City. Thirty-eight participants from 22 countries gathered for two intensive days to learn the latest in strategic planning, fundraising, communications, and measurement from leaders within the free-market movement

“Think Tank Leadership Training helped develop out the basic skills needed to organize my team in such a way that we can we can execute a sound strategy that supports the principles of a free market,” said Jeffrey Horne, director of programs for the U.S.-based Bill of Rights Institute. “There were so many tangible things I can immediately implement into my organization.”

Think Tank Leadership Training class of 2017.

This training features two full days of lectures and interactive workshops to give participants the practical tools needed to run a successful organization. For most sessions, participants are split into two tracks — North American and Global — better meeting the needs of participating organizations.

“Think Tank Leadership Training was a great platform to advance our current efforts and learn how to make them better and have a greater impact,” said Regina Portilla, a researcher at Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad in Mexico. “The diversity of my colleagues gave me a greater understanding of the different paths to achieve freedom and advance our movement.”

Regina Portilla hard at work during Think Tank Leadership Training.

Free-market industry leaders such as Joe Lehman (president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy,) Ann Fitzgerald (president of A.C. Fitzgerald & Associates), Daniel Anthony (vice president of marketing and communications at Atlas Network), Rachel Ayerst Manfredi (managing director at the American Enterprise Institute), and Michel Kelly-Gagnon (president & CEO of the Montreal Economic Institute) were part of this year’s group of teachers.

“In addition to being part of the incredible camaraderie of inspirational freedom champions across the globe, Think Tank Leadership Training provided me with the opportunity to learn about the intricacies of other internal roles which will undoubtedly have a positive effect in the way I think about communication between programs, marketing, communications, and development,” said Marianna Brashear, curriculum development & outreach manager at the U.S.-based Foundation for Economic Education.

Marianna Brashear (left) in one of the sessions during Think Tank Leadership Training.