How Can We Foster Diversity in German Think Tanks?

Call for Participation in the Community Challenge (closed)
Header Image with Think Tank Lab logo and following text: How Can We Foster Diversity in German Think Tanks?


Why Launch a Community Challenge on Diversity in Think Tanks

Think tanks are far from being reflective of the diversity in our societies, both when it comes to  their workforce and conference panels as these studies and resources have shown with regard to gender equality. The lack of diversity in German think tanks in terms of gender, educational, socio-economic and cultural or ethnic background has been of great concern to the think-tankers who participated in our focus group workshops – and it puts into question our industry’s relevance and legitimacy. The homogeneity and group dynamic within the policy expert bubble lead to a phenomenon called ‘groupthink’ or confirmation bias: The likelihood that we will think ‘outside the box’ when it comes to solving complex policy problems is diminished compared to more diverse group settings. Moreover, as key influencers of public policy and public opinion, think-tanks should counter the danger of a single story for policy. Moreover, if think tanks do not reflect the diversity of the society they are part of, they run the risk of being seen as elitist and out of touch, and might not be able to reach the decision-makers of the future, who will most certainly look different than today.

Find the outcomes of this challenge in our Diversity Dossier!

Aim of the community challenge

The Think Tank Lab brought together dedicated think-tankers and think-tank stakeholders who care about diversity for a 4-months community challenge.

In monthly working sessions, we analyzed

  • what stands in the way of more diversity in German think tanks,
  • what good practices are out there,
  • what can be done to move ahead on this, together.

Beyond analysis, the goal of the challenge was to prototype and test approaches to contribute to a more inclusive think tank landscape in Germany.

We are aware that fostering diversity in institutions is a long-term challenge that we won't solve once and for all within five months. But we are curious to see what difference we can make in such a limited time-frame if we bring colleagues from different think-tanks together for a sprint.

Why join the Community Challenge

By joining this working group, participants had the chance to work with an exciting group of peers, expand their knowledge about diversity management, and make a difference for their organization and the German think tank landscape at large. All work produced by participants of the community challenge will be duly publicly acknowledged. 

How we worked

We used elements from design sprint methodology as well as systems thinking and systems change and combined them with expertise from diversity management. We combined analysis of the system with personal reflection and experiential learning.

The working group met once a month for 2-3 hours. Inbetween meetings, participants developed and tested prototypes according to their interest and capacities. You can find the results of our group work here.        


From September 2021 to January 2022, a working group of eight practitioners (two men and six women) with affiliations to various German policy research institutes and foundations  engaged in policy work met on a monthly basis to address the state of diversity and inclusion in the industry and develop practical solutions based on this analysis. All members of the working group had already been involved in DEI initiatives within their organizations or had done research on diversity and identified with different nationalities, socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, and sexual orientations.

Following people participated in the challenge and contributed to the Diversity Dossier:

Susan Bergner, PhD researcher, Cluster of Excellence “Contestations of the Liberal Script” (SCRIPTS), Free University Berlin

Pradnya Bivalkar, PhD, Senior Project Manager, Robert Bosch Stiftung

Sarah Bressan, Research Fellow, Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi) and Co-Founder, Better Think Tanking

Santiago Cuervo Escobar, Project Manager (Participation and Cohesion), Stiftung Mercator

Barbara Pongratz, Associate Analyst, Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS)

Andre Weisser, Head of Press and Public Relations, Stiftung Neue Verantwortung (SNV)

Maria Prahl, Founding Partner, Working Between Cultures

Marie-Thérèse Schreiber, Project Assistant, Think Tank Lab, German Council on Foreign Relations

Ayse Yürekli, Senior Expert TÜSIAD and Coordinator, Berlin Bosphorus Initiative


The challenge was facilitated by Maria Prahl and Claire Luzia Leifert.

Maria Prahl studied Cultural Sciences, Eastern European Studies (M.A.) and Human Resource Development. (M.A.) She was trained as facilitator and works since 2004 in the field of societal change and diversity. She completed trainings in systems thinking and systems change and is certified consultant in this field (Master of Systemic Interventions). She is also Innovation Coach.

Her main focus lies in the work with civil society, public administration, higher education institutions and research institutions. 2021 she founded the social enterprise Working Between Cultures, which helps teams and institutions to include diversity in their organizations through Human Resource and Organizational Development approaches.

Claire Luzia Leifert heads the Think Tank Lab, a community of practice for think tankers throughout Germany. She also founded and heads the German Council on Foreign Relations‘ Impact & Innovation Lab, a learning and experimentation space for new approaches to policy advice and public engagement with international politics. In this role, she offers support on process and service design, develops trainings, facilitates strategy workshops, and hosts DGAP’s internal knowledge exchange format “Method Breakfast.” Before that, she headed a professional development program and network for public intrapreneurs from Eastern Europe and worked at the Heinrich Böll Foundation as a project manager. Since 2006, she has been a freelance trainer and facilitator in Germany and abroad. Claire studied European studies and international relations in Maastricht, Montreal, Berlin, and Vancouver. She graduated from the HPI School of Design Thinking, is a certified adult education trainer, and completed further training in Participatory Leadership (Art of Hosting), gender-oriented project management and Active Witnessing.

Outcomes of the Challenge

All the people involved have collaborated on devloping guidelines and suggestions on how think tanks and foundations can become more inclusive, which are available to you under "Downloads" on the right or in our Diversity Dossier.