Last week, 25 think tank professionals from 23 different organizations in 19 different countries across Europe gathered together in the “capital of Europe” for a Think Tank Essentials training. At first glance, Brussels may seem like an odd venue. As the seat of many offices of the European Union, the city can seem very bureaucratic. However, the location actually underscored the relevance of the work that these organizations are doing to promote the ideas of limited government and free markets in their own countries.
The training was hosted by Atlas Network in partnership with the Brussels-based European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE).
Over two and a half days, these 25 think tank professionals engaged in sessions designed to cover the fundamental aspects of operating a successful think tank. On day-one participants identified 5 current problems facing Europe, and then came together to form their own hypothetical think tanks to specifically address these issues.
Over the next two days, the training sessions encouraged participants to dive deeper on the fundamental questions of; “How do we solve this problem,” “How do we ‘market’ our ideas effectively,” “How do we raise the money we need to do our work,” and “How do we get things done effectively?” Looking at these questions through the lens of their hypothetical organizations gave participants a fresh perspective from which to look critically at their own work.
left: Dorian Elek, (director of the Paradigm Institute, Hungary)
Dorian Elek, director of the Paradigm Institute (Hungary) said that, while “youth studies on the values of Hungarians have been trending more towards an openness to the ideas of liberty,” the “liberty movement is still virtually nonexistent.” As such, Elek’s work has been largely focused on trying to better communicate the ideas of liberty with young people using social media.
Elek said that because of this training, he’s learned the importance of “saying no to other projects that fall outside of the scope of the Paradigm Institute to continue to focusing on what will create the greatest impact.”
center: Monika Olejarova, (program manager at the Institute of Economic and Social Studies, Slovakia)
Monika Olejarova, a program manager at the Institute of Economic and Social Studies (INESS) in Slovakia said that she “definitely gained more than she expected at the Think Tank Essentials Training,” and that she “liked how participants were asked to go through several exercises to deepen their understanding of the lecture content.”
In her role as a program manager, Monika said that the training taught her useful exercises to better identify the roots of the problems they are trying to address at INESS.
Adam Bartha, (director of EPICENTER, Belgium)
Adam Bartha, director of EPICENTER (Belgium) talked about the key challenges facing Europe that his organization was trying to address, namely, the “red tape and regulations coming out of Brussels and the lack of oversight on this legislation.”
EPICENTER has brought together 9 leading think tanks from across Europe, three of which also attended the training. Bartha said that “it was not only the practical tips on fundraising, project management, and communications strategy” that he found useful, but that having the chance to “try some of the theory in practice already on spot and listen to other think tanks’ experience in these areas was tremendously beneficial. The exchange of best practices and the sharing problems and possible solutions from other think tanks will help me build a more efficient network for our own members.”
The greatest takeaways from regional trainings like Think Tank Essentials are often not the lectures or the best practices that are shared — but rather, the sense of community that is built between participants and the enthusiasm to continue working to make the world a more free and prosperous place.