Psst – wanna run a thinktank?

A new Melbourne-based progressive thinktank, “Per Capita”, is looking for an executive director. The ad is over the fold.



Who we are
Over the last few months, a broad range of people have been working to set the foundations for Per Capita, a new independent think-tank dedicated to the advancement of progressive public policy in Australia. Progressive ideas are currently not well represented in the intellectual marketplace – Per Capita wants to change that.

Who you are
Per Capita is now looking for its first executive director. This is a career-defining opportunity for an exceptional person to lead the organisation through its establishment period and beyond. Combining a range of skills and attributes, the successful candidate will help re-shape the progressive public policy agenda for Australia by building one of the most innovative and influential think tanks in the country. In addition to management experience, he or she will have the intellectual capacity to influence the nation’s thinking over the next decade, and the skills needed to go head-to-head with competing thinkers and organizations in the day-to-day media. 

Your role and responsibilities will include
• helping set the progressive public policy agenda for Australia
• coordinating and overseeing a broad research agenda
• being a media spokesperson
• fundraising
• establishing trusted relationships with key opinion leaders, policy makers and politicians of all parties
• being accountable to the Board for the successful operation of Per Capita:
- managing resources, workflow and budget
- leading a team of diverse and creative policy professionals
- providing regular reports to the Board

You probably have
• an advanced degree
• a reputation as a ‘thought leader’
• an understanding of how ideas, economics and politics interact, including professional public policy experience 
• professional management experience, sufficient to manage a small but complex organisation
• strong communications skills, including experience of the electronic media and an ability to write well
• adaptability, flexibility and problem-solving expertise and an entrepreneurial mind-set
• a background in public policy, politics, the media, academia, management consultancy or business.

Your remuneration package
A remuneration package will be negotiated on the basis of a 12-month contract with a 3-month probationary period. The position would most likely be in Melbourne, but location may also be open for discussion.

If you are interested
Expressions of interest should be made to Jane-Frances Kelly at the email address below by close of business December 24th 2006.

Contact details:
jfk AT

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22 Responses to Psst – wanna run a thinktank?

  1. Sacha says:

    “a reputation as a ‘thought leader’”

    I wonder what a `thought leader’ is?

    On other matters, I wonder if they’ll go through the expressions of interest over Christmas? Hmmm – maybe I’ll apply!

  2. gringo says:

    Does anyone know anything more about ‘Per Capita’? As in where are they going to be based, how are they going to funded etc?

  3. I presume this is the Evan Thornley inspired think-tank that I wrote about at Catallaxy, and which ALP adviser and speech writer Dennis Glover has been working on. As I noted in that post, the trick will be to find some niche in the masses of ‘progressive’ research already coming out of publicly-funded sources.

    I think their first mistake is offering a 12 month contract. It narrows the pool of people likely to apply for such a crucial job, and gives whoever gets the job too little time to deliver impressive results.

  4. Sacha says:

    12 months isn’t very long…

  5. Presumably the short contract puts a premium on results for the person.

  6. Thought Leader says:

    Greetings this is the Thought Leader.

    Feel free to ask me anything about thought leadership.

  7. Corin says:

    I have thought the only way to actually make a think tank work is to act as a brand identity for intellectuals who already have jobs: re: those with tenure who want to work in consultancy and get a wider network. I put together a simple business plan for one some time ago – but was in London! Also the Think Tank would have to be broad based – rather than union heavy or business heavy on clients.

    But frankly it is only able to work if a business savvy person runs it (probably not an academic) and wins work for a stable of intellectuals who then do bits and pieces but keep ‘real jobs’ between things. Having large numbers of staff won’t work.

    Any economists out there want to join a stable but stay in a job at university – plenty I’d say.

    Or like the Lowy Institute and simply rely a major donor of course.

  8. “Also the Think Tank would have to be broad based – rather than union heavy or business heavy on clients.”

    Yes, but it should not have any ‘clients’ at all – then it is a consultancy, not a think tank. At the CIS, donors can support a particular program, but no research is done for any external organisation or individual.

    The CIS experience is that you cannot avoid people preoccupied with funding sources alleging that the research reflects funders’ interests. But they have never been able to produce any evidence that this is the case, and that is the situation Per Capita should put itself in as well.

  9. Corin says:

    Andrew N, let’s make some money, but agree that client choice is important. My view is if your doing a Think Tank for charity – better to give your money to Oxfam! A Think Tank is a strange form of charity!!

    I’d call the model in mind – A Brand + job-agency + a publisher in one.

    Also I’m not convinced you can settle for Australia only – also most of the really interesting Australian business projects have an international edge anyway.

  10. Corin says:

    Andrew N, I accept it is probably a consultancy not a Think Tank – but I can’t see why you have to do one or the other: why not do both. It is like a pro-bono practice in a big law firm say. Also the Think Tank part can act as a brand identifier on which you attach a serious money-making arm. I’m also convinced that academic publishing can be simplified by a Think Tank style to create more media friendly/business friendly pub;lication that will sell.

    Think Tank is so 1990’s – when the next ten years must be about shedding labels.

    You don’t buy it!

    My view – why not makes millions and also push buttons: why choose?

    Also the only-way to do a centre-ground Think Tank – is to do it ‘part-time’ – because otherwise you have to become like the Whitlam Fdn or the CIS – in other word trots or followers of the LDP. Just givin a bit of ribbin …

  11. Corin – Pro bono work is different – it is simply not charging for the kind of work you would do anyway in a context where who pays is irrelevant.

    Consultancy / think-tanks are going to be ridden with conflicts of interest and confused priorities. Also, the two organisations attract different types of people with different skills and motivations. Consultants tend to be profit-oriented and rarely have writing skills beyond constructing dot points on PowerPoint slides. Think-tank staff tend to be interested in ideas and policy for their own sake, and writing skills are essential.

    Think tanks were successful because they were focused and efficient – despite all the talk about ‘well-funded’ think-tanks what was organisationally interesting about them was that they could generate so much attention despite tiny budgets compared to universities or corporates.

  12. Twelve months tenure isn’t very tempting now is it?

  13. Presumably they’d be open to renewal after twelve months.

  14. Corin says:

    Andrew N, well said but I don’t buy the pessimism that many think tankers also don’t want to do consulting: I mean I see the roles having skills sets and entrepreneurial behaviour that is mutually re-inforcing. Consultancies generally don’t have a think tank arm because they don’t want to devote resources to a non-profit wing.

    Perhaps consider having an ‘independent wing’ inside a consultancy?

    Also the American Think Tanks have big lobbying arms – how do you explain that divergence from your lean directed ‘independent’ model.

    Lobbying on policy has to be a big part of the approach I’d say, otherwise you just spin ‘hot air’ and documents.

  15. Corin – I don’t think lobbying is inherently a problem, it is how your arguments are perceived. It’s widely believed that consultants find whatever their clients want them to find; this is probably unfair in many cases but it adds another obstacle to persuasion. I have no objections, of course, to consultants having their say in politics and policy, but if I was setting up an organisation to advance ideas I would organise it so as to maximise its chances of selling its ideas, and that means creating distance between it and those with actual or apparent self-interest behind their arguments.

  16. Corin says:

    Andrew N, you sounds like a dreamer and an idealist. The Liberal party and the Liberal forces need more people like you!

  17. Pingback: Andrew Leigh » Blog Archive » Per Capita Acquires Human Capital

  18. Grant Fitzner says:

    Michelle Grattan reports on the appointment of Hetherington and Cooney in today’s Age (6 April): New think tank to help swing ideas from right to left.

    I wish them luck – though let’s hope they both know how to use Skype!

  19. Ian Spooner says:

    Well, I hope Per Capita will open itself to ideas and dialogue with the rest of us out here who are the capitas they are supposed to serve.

    About time these self-appointed nuceli opened to ideas and comment from the mumpen mass – well fellow elite who happen not to be academics. We think, participate, instigate and influence too, you know. Take note.

  20. Simon says:

    I noted Michelle Grattan’s report, that the list of board members did not include any obvious Education professionals. What will be the quality of work from any future orientated ‘thinktank’ without adequate ‘education orientated’ input? I hope I’m wrong, and that Michelle did not mention all board members; perhaps she only mentioned those with names that are ‘known’, or who have serious, kudos laden (read non-educational) backgrounds; you all know what I mean – political, economic, or business consultancy types.

    I guess we can already form our own individual bias about the work of Per Capita even before it starts. Personally I’ll look forward to what they ‘put out there’. One initial reservation from what has already been put in print – I think if there is an effort distinguish itself from Clive Hamilton’s work (Green vs Labour), perhaps the myopia has already set in. Good luck Peter and Michael!

  21. Simon says:

    Sorry David, I meant ‘David and Michael’ – annointed ED and PD respectively.

  22. Simon – In think-tanks, the board of directors rarely has anything to do with the research agenda – they are there to raise money and provide management oversight. I would not criticise Per Capita on this basis, though I think there are other problems with their organisation. But the real test will be their ability to recruit bright social democrats (like Andrew L) to write material for them.

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