The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is a world leading international security and foreign policy think tank. Since its founding 1962, CSIS has built a strong brand in the policy ecosystem, known for the development of pragmatic, bi-partisan solutions to policy challenges. In November 2018, CSIS launched a strategic planning effort, guided by the Strategic Task Force (STF) of the Board of Trustees, to critically assess the organization’s positioning in a shifting policy ecosystem; articulate the organization’s mission, vision, and values; develop a process to set institutional priorities; and define the strategy for CSIS’s next decade to enable the organization to effectively drive impact in this shifting global context.
CSIS engaged Camber in two phases of work spanning 10 months. In the first phase Camber supported the strategic planning effort by developing a fact base and landscape assessment to identify the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, as well as the dynamics of the changing policy environment in which CSIS operates. This landscape assessment included extensive internal engagement through interviews and workshops with scholars and administrative leadership across CSIS; more than 25 interviews with stakeholders across the sectors in which CSIS works – including current and former government officials, corporate leaders, funders, other think tanks and the media; and quantitative analysis of CSIS financials, audience engagement, and cross-program collaborative efforts.
Phase two of the engagement focused on refining and building out– including execution details and anticipated costs – the core elements of the strategic plan. Working hand-in-hand with the STF and the executive leadership team, Camber articulated three pillars of the strategy:
- Develop multidisciplinary projects: CSIS will leverage its multidisciplinary capability to focus on collaborative, high-impact projects that will help define the future of national security.
- Strengthen the revenue raising model: CSIS will invest in its development team to grow the proportion of funding that is raised centrally, and focus on increasing the revenue it is able to raise from foundations and individuals.
- Engage new audiences and build the CSIS brand: CSIS will be more intentional and strategic about audience engagement at all levels. Doing so will include making investments in a brand-enhancing signature event and a signature product, as well as efforts to more effectively connect with influencers outside Washington.
CSIS’s strategic plan was formally adopted by the Board of Trustee in November 2019, with additional financial commitments secured to enable its successful implementation in 2020 and beyond.