Three priorities to keep Brookings at its best

Amy Liu speaking at the Brookings Institution

When I accepted the role of interim president several months ago, I did so with immense pride and appreciation for the place that has been my professional home for the last 25 years. Brookings is an institution with a stellar reputation. Its research credibility and broad influence attracts high-caliber talent and the interests of leaders across government and civil society, both in the U.S. and abroad. I believe it is my job to uphold that standing and to make every moment count.

I also understood the weight of this new responsibility. Like others in the broader “ideas industry,” Brookings faces a cluster of challenges in a highly dynamic environment. The policy landscape is hyper-polarized, shaped by misinformation, disinformation, and a rising populism that distrusts governing “elites.” The pace and volume of information and policy developments can be overwhelming. The mid-term elections this fall, regardless of the outcomes, will almost assuredly exacerbate those dynamics. Meanwhile, the philanthropic community is seeking greater impact, often in closer proximity to the communities whose lives and prospects they want to improve. To meet this moment requires talent with specialized skills and diverse backgrounds and lived experiences, all of whom have more choices in which to make a difference in this era of hybrid and remote work.

The way Brookings responds to these factors matters greatly. It takes intentionality to ensure our analyses and ideas break through and, with collaborations, lead to positive change. It takes effort to position Brookings’s work and workplace as resonant with a new generation of leaders in and outside of our institution. In other words, my tenure to bring stability and continuity to our community does not mean we stand still.

With all this in mind, I’ve identified a set of priorities for this interim period to help Brookings adapt and remain a leader in our field. I will share progress and other observations over the coming months so you can follow along, share input, and learn too.

Three priorities

The Institution’s leadership team and I are pursuing three priorities to keep Brookings at its best, now and into the future. Here’s how we’ll make that happen:

1. We will elevate the value and impact of Brookings. I firmly believe that our greatest strength is our work. At a time of increased cynicism of Washington-based institutions, we must demonstrate our value through our research, collaboration, and impact. Today, Brookings experts and teams are working together to strengthen American democracy, improve the economy, and increase opportunity, in local communities and across the nation. Our experts are also focused on the U.S. role and engagement in the world in ways that can ensure peace, national security, and fair trade. Others take a global approach rather than adopt a U.S. centric lens; they are concerned broadly about making sure the processes of globalization work better for all people and places. The Institution also benefits from cross-program efforts to better govern artificial intelligence and new technologies; promote racial equity and inclusion; and embrace climate action and sustainability. Brookings’s expertise and insights are actively equipping leaders in government, business, institutions, and civil society to address the major threats and opportunities before them. As we do, we are striving to better understand the external environment and needs of our audiences. This includes reviewing our values and different paths to impact as an institution. By better articulating what we do well today, we will find new opportunities for even greater impact going forward.

2. We will further develop a high-quality workplace. Brookings’s success comes from our people—and our ability to attract and retain high-quality talent in all positions. We’re mindful that we need to provide flexible options for today’s workforce while recognizing the stress that hybrid work presents for our existing workforce as they try to balance work, home, and ongoing health threats (COVID or otherwise). We also know the significance of continuing to have a diverse workforce, with a workplace that embodies a strong culture of belonging, and in which equity and inclusion show up in our research, networks, and engagements. Going forward, the leadership team and I are committed to working with our union and non-union members to ensure that staff are engaged, valued, and mentally and physically healthy. This includes continuing to improve how we connect employees to strategy and future directions, improve internal communications, reinvent our facilities, invest in individual needs and well-being, and create a vibrant culture in which multiple perspectives and lived experiences strengthen our workforce, research, and operations.

3. We will strengthen trust and credibility in Brookings. The Brookings brand is one of trust, credibility, and integrity. In an environment in which facts are distorted and information sources are unreliable, the Brookings team will further safeguard and strengthen the quality, independence, and objectivity of our work. In the coming months, our leadership team, working with members of the Brookings community, will move forward on several important initiatives. First, we will finalize and implement a set of research review standards and processes to ensure Brookings’s publications, from long-form research to short form commentary, are of the highest quality. Second, we will update and streamline, as well as continue to make publicly available, our policies that ensure that research findings and recommendations are not influenced by any political activity or funding. This includes strengthening our culture of training, learning, and accountability so that staff are fully equipped to do their part to protect the integrity of our shared work.

I have stayed at Brookings all these years because it has been an invigorating place to do meaningful, impactful work. We undertake pathbreaking analyses. We engage with leaders in the highest levels of governing. We support and lift up leaders who have not traditionally had voice and power in society. And we have always been unafraid to evolve and do better. I’m grateful to have this window to help Brookings strive, as we’ve done for over one hundred years, to set the highest standards of excellence for the think tank sector.