UNRISD was established in 1963 to create an autonomous space within the United Nations system for policy-relevant research and dialogue on pressing issues of social concern. Since then, the Institute has exercised a remarkable convening power, attracting members of academia, policy communities and civil society from across the world to our events, and as research partners and visiting researchers. Conversely, UNRISD staff members have been invited to undertake advisory activities both in UN Expert Groups and processes, and through membership of other academic or civil society bodies. The contribution of UNRISD research and related activities has been recognized in positive evaluations by major donors and other independent reviewers.
UNRISD has made widely recognized contributions to thinking around alternative development strategies that place social welfare and social justice at the centre of development policy and practice. Our research exposes the problems inherent in the widely accepted separation of the economic and the social which places social issues and policies in a subordinate and residual position. We have consistently engaged with efforts to move mainstream development thinking beyond a singular focus on economic growth and material well-being (measured in terms of income or GDP), or a concern with the agency of the individual separate from wider social relationships and institutions, toward an approach that integrates social and collective dimensions into the conceptualization, measurement and practice of development. We recognize that the achievement of development is always a political process, involving contestation, struggles for the representation and recognition of groups with competing interests, and requiring the redistribution of power and resources. And it emphasizes the intrinsic value of diversity in ideas and open debate, dialogue and contestation about alternative policy options that are feasible under different conditions.