Increasing Our Contribution

January 19, 2001

I am pleased to accept the role of Senior Fellow – Enterprise Development with the Fraser Institute. My role is to provide ideas that will contribute to the development of the Institute and facilitate the process of reaching agreement and determining what needs to be done to put those ideas into practice.

I believe the greatest opportunity lies in the Internet and in the creation of a website that works for both the Institute and its audiences. This project and the development process will provide a learning experience for the organization that will reveal other opportunities, and where it is beneficial, I will assist the Institute in determining how to capitalize and act on those opportunities.

This was how I started a letter accepting an invitation by Michael Walker to work with the Fraser Institute to increase their contribution to public policy thinking. I was in the early days of exploring how to create online communication systems for communities of common enterprise so I thought working with the Fraser Institute to increase the contribution of their enterprise to their interests would be a good place to learn.

I offered to hold a planning for the future meeting with the management group to discuss interests, ideas and opportunities. The invitation to join the Fraser Institute came after I presented the following summary of observations from the planning meeting.

Fraser Institute
Planning Session

Notes and Ideas
November 14, 2000

Our interests

  • Increase our ability to be more aware of what is going on out there; what issues are surfacing, their relevance and implications
  • Improve our ability to increase our share of media attention
  • Resolve conflicting agendas in our product marketing strategies, and improve product packaging and promotion
  • Increase our presence in the Toronto marketplace
  • Clarify perceptions of the Fraser Institute
  • Maintain and enhance the market 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

Random Ideas

Get information and ideas out when discussion around the issues is taking place; in support, of concern, in question?

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

Clarify for our customers what we deliver – agenda, information, point of view/conclusions, ideas, position (optional)

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 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 position re charitable status and prepare for possibility of losing status

Position the Fraser Institute as a global think tank vs. 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 might also be of global interest; local issues may have implications for national governance and have global relevance

Define or redefine product and service offerings available, in general, and for market segments e.g. authors, 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 the 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

Articulate and promulgate the fundraising or investment case statement:

  • what we do
  • why we are important
  • what we have done
  • how it has benefited us collectively

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

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 it works: ideas on how it might work better
  • where, why and how it doesn’t work; what could work better
  • where it doesn’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

Core values – external, our principles – internal, our critical success factors
-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?

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.

  • 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 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 web 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 pursued the idea of working with the Fraser Institute and accepted the offer to become an associate because I wanted to use what I learned and developed for Quantumideas. I was clear about this interest in the letter agreement.

“In addition, we agree that Quantumideas Enterprises Inc. will receive a copy and own, along with the Fraser Institute, the programs, code and capabilities we develop together. Quantumideas covenants not to provide the software and systems developed to enterprises that compete with The Fraser Institute. Also, if Quantumideas makes the software and systems available to a third party, it will bind that party to an agreement that it will be for their exclusive use and not transferable to any other party.”

Some of the other members of the Institute however expressed some concerns about the terms of the agreement and I was asked to modify the agreement or withdraw.

The ideas I presented continue to guide my thinking in creating a community media system and in how we can increase the contribution of think tanks and research centres in exploring ideas and opportunities to influence the future direction of public policy

Letter of Agreement – PDF

Fraser Institute

Our mission is to improve the quality of life for Canadians, their families, and future generations by studying, measuring, and broadly communicating the effects of government policies, entrepreneurship, and choice on their well-being.

Fraser Institute