The New Volunteerism Project

The Archival Collection of
Ivan Henry Scheier

What Is A Think Tank?

(training handout summaries)

Created for the use of participants in the 1992 VOLUNTAS Institute for Consultants and Trainers. Sponsored by the Center for Creative Community, P. O. Box 2427, Santa Fe, NM 87504.
@ -- permission for use-with-acknowledgment

A think tank is a process for looking long and deeply at underlying assumptions and values (in volunteerism, for our interest here) and feelings.

Concentration is on ‘why’ rather than ‘how to’ questions. (There were as estimated 3,000 workshops on volunteerism last year; we would be very surprised if there were more than a dozen think tanks over the same time period.) Think tanks appear to have very special, perhaps even unique value for us in the following ways:

Hopes – within a broad framework of volunteerism, examined via the think tank process:

Who Is It For?

Coordinators or other leaders of volunteers –

Who are visionaries…explorers…creative and in search of challenge… who can entertain unconventional approaches to problems which have resisted convention solutions…who feel the big picture of volunteerism merits their commitment…who are willing to re-examine basic assumptions in volunteerism today…chronic questioners within a framework of faith in volunteering…the restless seeker of broader perspective…We especially seek people of a mature, self-disciplined distortion who are comfortable in sharing and completely reliable in observing confidentiality.

Almost anyone in the right situation, e.g., one which calls for renewal, re-direction, etc. Amount of experience is less important than how the person uses that experience… Genius is not necessary… Both sides of the brain are helpful… So is patience with the problems of others: ability to function in a relatively unstructured, self-directed group; and "benign schizophrenia" re resource role.

Who Is It Not For?

People who mainly need help with the practical basics, such as how to recruit, place and train volunteers… people with such immediate program or professional problems that they have very little energy to devote to the problems of others or of volunteerism as a whole… people who assume that sheer longevity in the volunteer leadership field assures relevance of this think tank to their needs and style. People who need definite structure, rules, and objectives tend to have a lot of trouble with think tanks.

Special features of a think tank are:

When and where appropriate?
Occasionally, for:

Further Readings:

A Consideration of Volunteerism: Exercises for the Creative Gadfly
An Invitation to Soar: Manual for the Think Tank Process


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Ivan Scheier
607 Marr
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, 87901
Tel (505) 894-1340

For comments and editing suggestions please contact Mary Lou McNatt