Social value?

What impact do think tanks have for the organisations that commission them? I’m thinking especially of charities and their mission (obligation) for social benefit.

No doubt experiences vary widely, from the incredibly positive to the… less positive. If you work for a charity I’d be interested in your stories – though anonymise if you want to (and don’t worry, comments here are moderated).

The developing business model for our new think tank is based on the hunch that a fair few charities have felt somewhat short-changed by the think tank experience, but also more positively that there is a much broader potential market amongst smaller charities and voluntary sector organisations for credible policy work if the price is right.

My point here is not that think tanks don’t care about their customers. Rather it’s that the traditional think tank business model (with its almost exclusive reliance on in-house expertise and the significant overheads that follow) encourages a focus on big commissions from big funders at the expense of a much wider potential market. It also dictates the never-ending chase for the next commission – sometimes no doubt at the cost of current projects.

No-one goes into the think tank business to get rich. But if this does reflect the experience of a number of customers, then it also indicates a fundamentally broken business model that’s ripe for disruption – which is what I’ll be considering next post.



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