1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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50th Anniversary



In August 1963 UNRISD was established through the inspiration of the first Nobel laureate in economics, Jan Tinbergen, and Gunnar Myrdal (1974 Nobel laureate). The vision of these leading economic thinkers was of development theory and practice which took adequate account of social issues.

Over five decades UNRISD has pursued the vision of its founders: to bring social issues centrally into the political framing of problems and the formulation of development policies. The result has been and continues to be research that frequently questions conventional wisdom or dominant policy approaches, and points towards alternatives.

Pursuing the founders' vision


During our 50th year UNRISD is proud to build on the achievements of our founders and predecessors, pursuing a research programme focused centrally on issues of social sustainability, the social policies needed to achieve inclusive development outcomes, and the politics that determine how resources are allocated to such ends.

The following current and recent projects exemplify this focus: Social Dimensions of Green Economy and Sustainable Development; Towards Universal Social Security in Emerging Economies: Process, Institutions and Actors; When and Why Do States Respond to Women's Claims? Understanding Gender-Egalitarian Policy Change in Asia; and Politics of Domestic Resource Mobilization for Social Development.

Our 50th anniversary year also sees a range of events and activities – in Geneva, with partners around the world and in virtual spaces – building on two key characteristics that UNRISD has cultivated over these decades: our convening capacity and our global networks.

Highlights of our events this year, ranging from international conferences of several hundred participants to seminars and stakeholder workshops, include Potential and Limits of Social and Solidarity Economy; Uncovering the Politics of "Evidence"; The Human Rights Approach to Social Protection; and Regional Governance of Migration and Socio-Political Rights: Institutions, Actors and Processes.

UNRISD Timeline


The UNRISD Timeline is an interactive way to delve into five decades of cutting-edge research on social development. The Timeline presents UNRISD work across six wide-ranging themes. Click on the icons to discover more about our early work on social indicators, explore our ground-breaking research on the Green Revolution, or find out more about our recent work, for example on Political and Social Economy of Care, South-South Migration, or Social and Solidarity Economy.

The Timeline also includes some ideational context for each decade, highlighting overall development trends and the UNRISD focus within this broader context, as well as the global events which put it all into perspective. A useful resource for students and researchers interested in the history of social development, and a great tool for practitioners and policy makers who need to see their current concerns in a longer-term context, we hope the Timeline will help users to appreciate the timeliness of UNRISD research past and present.

UNRISD Classics


UNRISD Classics, is a three-volume series that bring together UNRISD research over the last 50 years.
The three volumes feature cover artwork submitted in response to "Visions of Change", a call that generated over 150 submissions from artists around the world.

To compile these collections we reviewed the vast literature published by the Institute since the 1970s (over 600 papers and books) to select works whose analytical insights remain highly pertinent to current debates and development challenges. The selected texts shed light on how to deal with complex social problems, assess the impacts of development policies and processes on different social groups, and craft more equitable and sustainable patterns of development.