by Joseph Coletti
Senior Fellow, Fiscal Studies, John Locke Foundation
Think tanks like the John Locke Foundation have a hard time knowing whether we are successful. How well do we advance our mission to “transform government through competition, innovation, personal freedom, and personal responsibility” and provide “a better balance between the public sector and private institutions of family, faith, community, and enterprise”?
Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) writes in the Harvard Business Review that organizations could create a dashboard of indicators “to gauge the revealed preferences of public leaders and the uptake of the organization’s work.”
Our new focus on impact has also helped us refine our audience development and segmentation. We believe that in the marketplace of ideas, we can classify potential consumers of our products into four groups according to their receptivity to a given message: true believers (who already agree), persuadables (who are open to hearing from us), hostiles (who think our perspective is stupid or evil), and apathetics (who couldn’t care less). We cross these four attitudinal groups with the five key demographic groups—policy makers, business leaders, the media, community leaders, and academics—that form our target audience. This gives us a 4 x 5 matrix and enables us to balance our strategies and offerings across these groups to maximize impact and more effectively serve our mission principles.
AEI has grown tremendously in dollars and scholars over the past decade and has a beautiful new headquarters building. Is it having an impact? That is harder to know from outside, especially in federal policy, but if “money’s what happens when you do something right,” then AEI is clearly doing something right.