Increasing our contribution

Late in 2000 I began thinking about how I might move forward on the idea of creating Quantumideas. I thought the Fraser Institute might be a good place to explore, thinking that if I could interest them I could use their resources, their enterprise, their relationships, and their media to design and develop a media communication system. I offered to review their communications to explore how they could increase their contribution as a think tank.

On November 14, 2000, based on my conversations with members of the senior management group and on my review of the communications systems and approach in operation at the time, I presented these ideas to Michael Walker, the Executive Director.

Our interests as I understand them – in random order

  • Increase our ability to be more aware of what is going on – what issues are surfacing, their relevance and their implications
  • Improve our ability to increase our share of media attention
  • Resolve conflicting agendas in our marketing strategies, and improve our packaging and promotion of our products
  • Increase our presence in the Toronto marketplace
  • Clarify perceptions of the Fraser Institute
  • Maintain and enhance the perception of the Institute’s independence from influence and our ability to provide fresh perspectives
  • Attract and retain the best talent in an increasingly competitive environment
    Improve our ability to get information and ideas out to influencers and decision makers
  • Keep the Fraser Institute at the forefront of policy-making influence during periods of public policy change
  • Be more relevant to regional markets, issues and perspectives as well as national issues
  • Be relevant globally as well as locally
  • Minimize media filtering e.g. Institute positioned as good at identifying problems vs. solutions; ensure complete and accurate reporting
  • Maintain and increase funding support in a changing market environment
  • Increase our appeal to the younger generation
  • Improve internal communications
  • Ensure our charitable status

My ideas about what we could do – in random order

Get information, observations, ideas, and questions out when the discussion around the issues is taking place

Create an editorial agenda defining our position and objectives on issues of concern, e.g. improved governance, war on drugs, freedom with personal responsibility, and the positions we have taken and still agree with

Clarify for our customers what we deliver, – information, point of view, conclusions, ideas, and our position if we have one in the context of our agenda

Create our own media and subscriber base

Segment and target communities of interest in public policy change

Partner and collaborate with competitors and social enterprises

Market complementary or competitor products to increase our customer base and share of mind

Build relationships with a larger base of customers by collaborating with and providing services to social enterprise partners to strengthen charitable status and prepare for the possibility of losing status

Position ourselves as a global think tank rather than a national think tank, Local issues are likely test tube issues e.g. downtown Eastside, urban air quality. National issues which have their own Canadian communities of interest could also be of global interest. Local issues could have implications for national governance and have global relevance

Define or redefine our product and service offerings, in general and as they could interest different market segments e.g. author, senior fellows, general public, special interest, or Institute views; product bundling, service options and packaging

Create or repackage products which are of interest to the younger generation as a customer segment; e.g. liberty and freedom as an intrinsic area of interest to youth

Use our internal community as a beta market for ideas on both content and process; internal communications, resource utilization, community governance

Build on the senior fellows strategy to expand and create a cross-market body of informed and concerned individuals as both a market segment and a resource; by issue or area of concern and/or as a cross-section of thought and expertise

Engage and create on-line senior fellows

Employ forums to build audience and increase involvement and share of customer

Connect publications, products and services to the agenda and mission; or identify a new agenda or issue of common concern

Select the right customers, or assume the “right” customers in key target markets; the right customer believes in the vision and principles.

Articulate and promulgate the fundraising case statement:

  • What we do
  • Why we are important
  • What we have done
  • How it has benefited us collectively

My thoughts on role, mission, vision, mandate, values, principles, agenda

Mission statements are often about us, rather than about the customer benefit e.g. finding market solutions to public policy problems

Our vision should be relevant to our audience or customer base e.g. a society of free and responsible individuals

What do we do? e.g. we are in the business of creating and sharing knowledge

Why do we do it? e.g. knowledge is our greatest resource; quality of life, ability to move forward

What do we promise? e.g. an opportunity to learn, participate, contribute, engage

What do we deliver? e.g information, point of view, ideas, opportunities, services for more informed decision making. Where, why and how things work: ideas on how things might work better. Where, why and how things aren’t working; what ideas could work better. Where things don’t prevail; what might be done

What makes us different? e.g. our principles, our approach, our independence (courage, without fear or favour), our excellence, our expertise, our resources, information based on empirical observation

What makes us relevant? e.g. learning how to do things better, learning how to change things for the greater good is how we move forward

What are our core values, – external, our principles, – internal, our critical success factors. e.g we live or die on the quality, utility, integrity, relevance, objectivity, independence, influence, impact, excitement of our work

Inclusivity – a principle? a value? a strategy? a vision? equal in our uniqueness? different points of view? new issues and agendas?

My observations on the website

Our objective is to provide people with information, ideas, and opinions that change their point of view and attitude on issues, stimulate action, and have them become active participants, supporters and advocates for our vision and agenda.

The web is our most cost-effective vehicle for communicating, (what are our communication objectives), for serving our clients’ interests, needs, and objectives (what are they), as we serve our own (what are they)

Who are they? What are they interested in? How can we serve them while serving ourselves?

They are shopping for information and ideas that assist them in pursuing their interests and learning how to become more successful in their endeavours.

We are providing a facility that serves the interests of audiences who are interested in our interests and who can serve our interests.

If we make our interests clear, and give them an opportunity to tell us about their interests, we can collaborate on interests that we have in common.

Based on what we know about the audience that we are trying to attract and engage, we can work to make every contact, opportunity and transaction work hard for both of us – a win-win proposition.

Examples

  • Making our agenda and the benefits of “doing business” with us clear
  • Giving people an opportunity to tell us what issues, information, and services they are interested in
  • Giving people the opportunity to become an advocate for ideas we support and services we provide
  • Connecting information and ideas provided to our agenda and their interests
  • Making the learning experience easy and exciting
  • Articulating and assisting our audiences in articulating the benefits of what we have to offer
  • Providing a short bulletin service
  • Providing backgrounders and reminders when issues are being actively discussed
  • Treating the customer as a CEO
  • Soliciting their opinions
  • Identifying opportunities to act on ideas
  • Providing opportunities to become active contributors and supporters
  • Connecting ideas in the site

Evaluation criteria for site design and customer development ideas

For the interests of the Fraser Institute
  • Mandate positive
  • Leverage
  • Return on Investment
  • Profile raising
  • Revenue generating
  • Ability to connect /build a relationship
  • Ability to learn
  • Increase our capability
  • Add to our resources
For the interests of the audience
  • Useful
  • Engaging
  • Exciting
  • New learning
  • Positive
  • Positive benefit
  • Ability to act

What Happened

I was offered the role of Senior Fellow, Enterprise Development and signed a letter of agreement with Michael Walker, the Executive Director, on January 19, 2001. My role was defined as providing ideas that will contribute to the development of the Institute, facilitating the process of reaching agreement, and determining what needs to be done to put those ideas in practice.

The greatest opportunity lay in the internet and in creating a website that would work for both the Institute and its audiences so we agreed to begin by using a design-build website development process as a learning experience for the organization that would reveal other opportunities.

We also agreed that Quantumideas Enterprises would own, along with the Fraser Institute, the programs, code, and capabilities we developed together with a covenant that Quantumideas would not provide the software and systems developed to enterprises who seemed to compete with the Fraser Institute, and that if Quantumideas made the software and systems available to a third party, it would bind that party to an agreement that it would be for their exclusive use and not transferable to any other party.

This, of course, was why I entered into this collaboration and agreed to accept a per diem compensation as an associate that was far below the per diem consulting fees I earned more than fifteen years earlier. The Board of the Fraser Institute however was interested in something proprietary and did not agree with these terms so I was happy to move on with a greater appreciation and understanding of the idea of a free market economy.