Human capital is the biggest asset of each and every think tank. In securing reliable and high-quality researchers, think tanks compete with much more powerful competitors, i.e. governments, state agencies, private companies, banks and consulting companies. The region’s think tanks therefore have to devise special motivation strategies to retain existing staff and attract new talented individuals to opt for this career. As a small part of civil society, despite being present in the public life, think tanks are often not the first choice to fresh graduates who are interested in embarking on research/policy careers. Think tanks predominantly depend on project funding – which is not always stable – to maintain its staff decreasing its job security compared to other types of employments.
Yet, there are more reasons for both existing think tanks and young talented graduates to be courageous and reach to each other. In the countries outside the European Union, the lack of universities, governmental policy institutes and competent public administration makes think tanks one of the few possible outlets attractive to anyone looking at a career in policy research. Also, many young people educated in the best universities abroad or at home do not want to become part of often corrupted bureaucracy. Likewise, the prospect of a small, albeit guaranteed salary, at the few old-fashioned state institutions often does not sate the appetite of motivated returnees from foreign universities. Neither does the prospect of being a junior researcher not allowed to lead a project before they are 40. Finally, the talented managers / leaders of some think tanks in the region have developed oasis for personal development, exchange of know how and team work with like-minded individuals and opportunity for rapid growth.
Before you start thinking that Goran ‘is indulging into an ad for the region’s think tanks’, let me note that I am aware of the many shortcomings, too. Still, even if in small scale, it is worth supporting think tanks to become vibrant places for an increasing number of young educated people to ‘cut their policy teeth’. At the Think Tank Fund we have noticed that often the first step, the first push to circumvent the fear of unsecured funding, of perhaps the fear of mismatch between the individual and the organization is missing. Therefore we have recently re-launched a call to solicit interest from TTs to think of such posts. I encourage all interested think tanks to read more here.
We are also looking at other ways to support think tanks in becoming an attractive and accessible place for young educated MA and PhD graduates. I welcome all of your ideas .