1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Research Agenda

Research for Social ChangeTransformations to Equity and Sustainability: UNRISD Strategy 2016-2020 sets out the main priorities and themes of UNRISD research for the coming five years within an overarching institutional framework that links research, communications, policy engagement, results and impact. Developed through extensive consultations with a wide range of stakeholders, the UNRISD Strategy responds to contemporary development trends, policy concerns and scholarly debates, and aims to fill identified knowledge gaps, while also anticipating social issues that are not yet part of mainstream discourse.

A changing global context:
The Strategy has been finalized at a moment of significant change in the international development landscape. The millennium consensus to end extreme poverty has been replaced by a new Agenda for Sustainable Development that will shape policy priorities and funding flows through 2030. The new global commitments contain ambitious promises of solidarity and transformation, combining a continued focus on the most disadvantaged people in low-income countries with universal strategies to ensure greater equity and sustainability—social, ecological and economic.

This global agenda has been negotiated in a complex and challenging environment: a range of new or exacerbated risks and vulnerabilities, including recurrent crises, health epidemics, environmental disasters and conflict, intensify livelihood insecurities and undermine progress already made. And its implementation will need to address difficult and intersecting problems, ensuring coherence across a diverse set of Sustainable Development Goals, and often resolving tensions and trade-offs between them. From a social development perspective, three overarching challenges capture many of the most pressing problems of the contemporary era reflected across the new goals: inequalities, conflict and unsustainable practices. It is to these challenges that UNRISD research most directly responds.

Addressing global challenges
: Within the UNRISD Strategy, research analysse and explore the innovations and pathways that can lead towards more inclusive development outcomes. It also considers critical obstacles and how they can be overcome.

An overarching goal for the Institute is to ensure that social development concerns and objectives remain prominent in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This involves an assessment of the synergies and trade-offs among different dimensions and goals, analysing and assessing the appropriateness of the institutional architecture for ensuring coherence among them, and identifying institutional arrangements and innovations that can support transformative processes and outcomes—defined in terms of equity and inclusion.

Work is organized in three programme areas: Social Policy and Development, Gender and Development, and Social Dimensions of Sustainable Development. Building on past and ongoing research and reflecting the distinctive capacities of the Institute, each programme identifies key questions and topics that contribute to addressing the challenges identified above. A common analytical framework unifies the research across programmes.

Policy-engaged research:
The UNRISD Strategy is also shaped by strong ties with the normative foundations and operational processes of the United Nations system, and by an impact approach through which policy-engaged research is informed by and responsive to potential users to ensure relevance and uptake. Taking full advantage of UNRISD’s strategic institutional location and relations within the UN system, and its mandate to undertake policy-relevant research on social development issues, the Institute engages with a wide range of stakeholders—bridging academia, policy and decision makers, practitioners and advocates within and between countries around the world—to ensure that ideas, knowledge and evidence inform processes of change.

Implementation and funding:
UNRISD receives no funding from the General Budget of the United Nations. The Institute must fully mobilize all the financial resources necessary to implement the research, communications, policy engagement, results and impact outlined in its strategy. Within the framework of this strategy, UNRISD will remain flexible and responsive to the changing context, emerging priorities and specific demands for research from United Nations entities and other key users and funders. The nature of activities and specific content of the research may therefore be modified, subject to discussion and approval by the UNRISD Board.