1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Our Impact

"If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading." Lao-Tzu

đź”´ Download the UNRISD brochure, Ideas to Impacts.

🔵 Download the UNRISD brochure, 2016–2020: Pathways to Impact.

"UNRISD has an impressive track record in predicting trends, pinpointing gaps in our existing understanding and enhancing the collective awareness of the dynamics of social development. Its analysis has shaped policy-setting within the wider United Nations. The ideas generated by UNRISD serve as powerful multipliers for a lasting impact on our common work.”

Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, 2014

UNRISD research helps build better understanding of and greater pluralism in transformative policies, practices and approaches to social development. UNRISD contributes evidence, analysis, ideas and strategies that can shape debates, frame policies and approaches, and guide policy makers and practitioners in their efforts to combat poverty, inequalities, injustice and unsustainable practices, and to achieve more equitable, inclusive and sustainable development outcomes.

Our location as a research institute within the UN family gives us unique opportunities for influence. We interact with a variety of UN bodies, from providing advice to the UN Secretariat to knowledge exchange with UN specialized agencies. We have channels into national policy making through our relationship with UN inter-governmental bodies; and we count NGOs and civil society among our stakeholders, who also work to influence governments.

Shaping and shifting knowledge

UNRISD’s farthest-reaching influence is to push neglected issues up the political agenda, providing evidence and arguments to policy makers and activists alike. Our cutting-edge work on the social and political economy of care (both direct care of persons and domestic work) in the global North and South, has helped position unpaid care work in the Sustainable Development Goals. From the mid-2000s UNRISD was identifying persistent and growing inequalities as one of the main barriers to poverty reduction, and combating this scourge is now a key driver behind Agenda 2030.

Research Uptake

Bridging Research and Policy Communities
Thanks to its position at the heart of the UN system, UNRISD has channels to bring empirical evidence from its global research networks to member states, such as via side events at intergovernmental meetings. Highlights from the past 4 years where UNRISD has shared its evidence-based insights with policy makers include the following:

A Unique Interdisciplinary and Holistic Approach for UN Partners
UNRISD is a valuable partner for other UN agencies seeking to improve their knowledge base and inform their work with rigorous, reliable evidence. In the last 4 years, research was commissioned to UNRISD by UNICEF, UNECE and UNDP. UNRISD researchers’ expertise has been sought, amongst others, by DESA, ECA, ESCAP, ESCWA, GAIN, ILO, ISSA, UNCTAD, UNFCCC, UNSSC, the World Bank.

UNRISD research can also have direct impact on policy processes and outcomes and be taken up by different actors involved in those processes.

International Influence

At UNRISD we have played a pioneering role in raising awareness within the UN system of the emerging social and solidarity economy (SSE), highlighting its potential for more socially just pathways to development. Our initiatives in this direction have resulted in the creation of the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Social and Solidarity Economy, whose role is to mainstream SSE in international policy frameworks, act as a platform for cooperation between UN agencies, and facilitate the co-production of knowledge and exchange of experience.

Regional Influence

African Union
The African Union Commission’s Social Policy Framework for Africa draws its inspiration and rationale from UNRISD work on social policy in a development context, viewing social policy as a comprehensive and coherent agenda of collective public efforts to affect and protect people’s well-being. The Framework provides the ideas on which many African countries base their social development strategies, and the principles to which they aspire.

UNRISD participated in high level consultations on the future of development policy in the Arab region. The Conclusions of the meeting, which will serve to define ESCWA policy for the next 15 years, bear the hallmarks of a strong UNRISD influence. They recommend breaking away from a reductionist approach that limits the concept of development to the individual, towards a holistic understanding that integrates the social context. They also advocate for transformative social policy, and a vision of social policy as a driver for change in the region that addresses social inclusion and social justice.

National Influence

Recognizing the labour rights of domestic workers in Indonesia
The issue of domestic workers’ protection has been included in the Indonesian Parliament’s 2016 National Legislative Programme as a result of coordinated advocacy by civil society activists and the National Commission on Women. These two parties were brought together at a workshop on UNRISD research findings, which recommended that women’s rights groups and champions in state institutions work together to design gender-egalitarian policies.

Drafting SSE policy in Costa Rica
To solve today's complex development challenges, policy actors and practitioners need to address five key dimensions simultaneously: economic development, social protection, environmental protection, gender equality and socio-political empowerment. Research convened by UNRISD has demonstrated the potential of social and solidarity economy (SSE) to deliver this kind of integrative development. This learning is being used in Costa Rica, where policy makers including ministers and MPs have called on UNRISD experts during consultations on a draft law on Social and Solidarity Economy.

Health policy in Brazil
UNRISD research on diverse pathways to achieve universal health care has contributed to setting the agenda and shaping the discourse of universalism in social protection in Brazil. Local stakeholders involved in the Public Health Movement in Brazil, and in the World Social Forum on Health and Social Security, have translated key UNRISD texts into Portuguese and used them to support their work on developing social policy strategy.

Training, Capacity Building and Networks

As well as providing in-project capacity building for collaborating researchers, and having proven uptake in university syllabi, UNRISD periodically participates in training programmes.

UN-IDEP training course for policy makers
For example, our research and findings on social policy in a development context form the basis for an annual training programme on Social Policy for Development Planners, organized by UN-IDEP (the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning). The course aims to develop a critical mass of highly skilled mid-level and senior decision makers with a strong social policy orientation. These policy makers are then equipped to design and manage development plans in which social and economic policies are integrated to deliver better socioeconomic security for their citizens.

IDEAs: A pluralist network of progressive economists
UNRISD can also serve as the inspiration for people to take action and create their own networks. The 2001 UNRISD conference "Rethinking Development Economics", supported by the Ford Foundation, was the birthplace of IDEAs, a pluralist network of progressive heterodox economists across the world, engaged in research, teaching and dissemination of critical analyses of economic policy and development. Its members are motivated by the need to strengthen the study of development economics, emphasizing structural change and systemic processes, and to promote policy approaches that emphasize market regulation and collective action (including government intervention) for sustainable growth with justice, human rights and democratic participation. The network currently counts over 2,600 members (academics, researchers, policy analysts and activists from 114 countries mostly in the global South) and it has succeeded in building links with civil society and into policy circles to ensure that its research has impact.

Civil Society

Our pioneering role in the analysis of care work and its impact on economic development has provided key arguments and evidence that inform the publications of organizations like Oxfam and ActionAid, and which are the basis for major action campaigns such as Making Care Visible and Innovations in Care. These projects are using knowledge generated by UNRISD to have a concrete impact on the ground, improving people’s awareness of unpaid care work in their communities, and providing practitioners with tools for action and policy influence.

Photos: Peace Bell Ceremony in Observance of International Peace Day, United Nations Photo Library; Ethiopia, Mursi tribe by Dietmar Temps (Common Creatives via Flickr); Land Management Council by Siggon (Common Creatives via Flickr); Mediation Training by AMISOM Public Information (Public Domain via Flickr); Anti Nuclear Power Protests in Kouenji by Matthias Lambrecht (Common Creatives via Flickr).