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About Us


The evolution of human society, including thought processes, is highly dependent on the understanding of the environment within which communities, nations and regions operate. Thus, over time, communities of various scales of organisation were able to take advantage of, and influence, global dynamics in order to improve the human condition. This rings even truer at the current level of human civilisation.


Global Context

  • The globalisation of human endeavours through trade, production, technology, tourism, arts and culture
  • The speed of technological progress that possesses the potential to advance human comfort but at the same time to widen the gap between rich and poor between and within countries
  • The current global economic crisis, and before it, the collapse of the socialist system in Eastern Europe
  • Global challenges such as poverty, environmental degradation, unresolved regional conflicts, terrorism and uncontrolled migration
  • Issues relating to the intersection of the roles of the state, the private sector, civil society as well as regional and global multilateral bodies

Domestic Context

  • Advances in changing South African society for the better through the consolidation of democracy and implementation of developmental policies
  • Improved access to basic services and progress in respect of important indicators of human development
  • Encouraging signals of social cohesion, but with fault-lines of race and social status much evident
  • Weaknesses in the speed and profundity of change and the implications of this on the levels of poverty and inequality as well as the related challenge of nation-formation and social cohesion


  • Historical moment requires strategic reflection on the country’s developmental trajectory and its global positioning
  • Opening up of intellectual space for strategic research and reflection
  • Need to operate above pressures for immediate tactical applicability: to provide ‘deliverables’ of immediate relevance to funders and clients
  • Need for discourse that is not confined to dogmatic templates
  • Need for mutually-beneficial interaction among and within research and academic institutions


  • Research agenda unfettered by pressures of immediate application, considerations of sources of funding or relationships with other institutions
  • Transdisciplinary approach to research and analysis
  • Prospective and longitudinal studies
  • Attention to global developments and cutting edge thinking, and reservoir of knowledge
  • Extensive network for engagement with the public, private, civil society and academic sectors


  • Poor appreciation of long-term strategic work that does not deal directly with the immediate challenges of the time
  • Temptation on the part of those who commission research briefs to control the orientation of such work and its outcomes
  • Lack of endowment culture in the country to fund long-term intellectual projects which may not provide immediate return on investment
  • Pigeon-holing the Institute as a platform for particular social, political and other interest groups
  • Historical and current fault-lines within South African society, undermining pursuit of a unified national agenda
  • Development of an un-mediated organisational culture in the Institute


  • A democratic order that has been sustained out of a negotiated settlement demonstrating the commitment across the board to make South Africa work
  • Highly trained researchers, academics and policy analysts and practitioners available to the Institute
  • A reservoir of knowledge and material at universities and independent research institutes to draw on
  • An appreciation, albeit limited, of the role of intellectual work in the development of society
  • Historical and current fault-lines within South African society, undermining pursuit of a unified national agenda