Research at TNI

TNI is known for its rigorous standards of research and high levels of expertise and its commitment to produce analysis that can assist our mission of achieving social and environmental justice. Our briefings and reports are appreciated by activists and policy-makers alike for their systemic analysis, visionary alternatives and pragmatic proposals.



TNI was founded as a research institute in 1974 with its primary goal "to promote scientific research in the field of culture, politics and social sciences". Our first director, Eqbal Ahmad immediately created an international fellowship of leading progressive intellectuals of the time including Marcos Arruda, John Berger, Wendy Chapkis, Carmen Claudin-Urondo, Fred Halliday, Michael Klare, John Gittings, Susan George, A. Sivanandan, Ernst Utrecht and Pedro Villanova. 

TNI has sustained the fellowship ever since, renewing its composition over time. Former Fellows retain their association as Associates. In addition, the Institute has built up a network of associated researchers specialised in different fields that undertake research on critical global issues. Together we produce high-quality publications, work collaboratively with other researchers, universities and social movements, and share analysis with people and movements committed to social change.

The Transnational Institute is a recognised non-governmental research organisation in the Netherlands and at EU levels. It holds consultative status at the United Nations, which has enabled TNI to present the institute’s research outputs at several UN scientific, technical and policy meetings, organised by different agencies.

How we do research

TNI does not undertake research for its own sake, nor does it subscribe to artificial concepts of 'neutrality'. We believe in activist scholarship, produced collaboratively, and dedicated to social change.

These principles and practices are integral to how we do research:

  • Research with a mission for transformative change. We believe research should address structural injustice and help inform and support social movements involved in struggles for justice.

  • Rigour and accuracy. TNI is diligent in its efforts to be accurate, evidence-based and rigorous, and has a policy of fact-checking and peer-reviews to support this.

  • Co-production of knowledge. TNI believes that knowledge is not restricted to academia and intellectuals, but is developed organically through experience and struggle. We seek constantly to facilitate interactions between scholars and activists.

  • Collaborative. We believe both the quality and impact of research is greatly enhanced if research is done collaboratively and therefore we actively seek out partnerships with researchers and activists. We also try to work with local researchers in regions discussed or examined in the report.

  • Partnering with social movements and progressive governments. We believe good analysis is only useful if combined with political pressure, therefore we work closely with social movements, as well as progressive parties and decision-makers to push for policy changes that put ideas into action.

  • Making research accessible and popular. Too much analysis is hidden behind obscure jargon, journal paywalls and dense papers. TNI seeks to translate concepts and provide analysis that is accessible to a wide range of activists,through our careful use of language, production of primers and easily-read briefings, and our innovative use of infographics, videos and other popular media.


TNI's fellowship is drawn from all continents of the world, and currently comprises of 8 full Fellows and 18 Associates. They include independent researchers and writers, academics and policy consultants. Once a year, the fellowship meets in Amsterdam to discuss contemporary issues of global significance, inviting other selected researchers, writers and activists to enrich the discussions. The Dutch public is afforded an opportunity to meet and engage with the Fellows through public forums organised alongside the annual meetings.

Academic partnerships

TNI has worked with many different university academics, departments and associations on various research initiatives in recent decades. Our current key partnerships include:

  • A joint annual research programme on ‘committed research’ in Latin America, in cooperation with Instituto de Estudios de América Latina (IEALC) and el Caribe El Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales (CLACSO) and which recently launched a call for papers on the subject of struggles over the public domain.

  • Close work with the Global Drug Policy Observatory at Swansea University, producing briefings and research on drug policy reform.

  • Strong collaboration with the Institute of Social Studies in the area of agrarian justice which has led to joint research projects such as Initiatives in Critical Agrarian Studies (and related projects BICAS and MOSAIC) and the staging of major colloquia on food and land issues that have brought together crowds of academic activists and key social movement leaders from around the world for stimulating debates and discussions.

We also have strong and long-term relationships with academics at Havens Center, University of Wisconsin (USA), Universidad de Buenos Aires (Argentina), Civil Society Centre, University of KwaZulu Natal (South Africa), Universidad de la Republica, Montevideo (Uruguay), Public Services Research Unit, Greenwich University (UK), Open University (UK), University of Amsterdam (Netherlands), University of Helsinki (Finland), University of Bradford (UK)

Journals and Associations

A number of TNI staff, Fellows and Associates serve on the editorial and advisory boards of various journals and Associations.

Fellow Jun Borras is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Peasant Studies (ranked no 1/84 in Anthropology and Planning/Development journals). Others include Third World Quarterly and Review of International Political Economy (Walden Bello), Revista Venezolana de Economía y Ciencias Sociales (Edgardo Lander), Development and Change (David Sogge), Global Social Policy (Fiona Dove), Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (Achin Vanaik).

TNI staff and Fellows are also active members of multiple scientific associations, including: the International Sociological Association (ISA), the International Studies Association (ISA), the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), the American Political Science Association (APSA), and the Latin American Council for Social Sciences (CLACSO).

TNI is also an associate member of the International Social Science Council, as well as CLACSO.


TNI won a much-coveted award from the Lindesmith Foundation in recognition of TNI’s decade of research on international drug policy, and the outstanding role played by the TNI Drugs Programme Director, Martin Jelsma, who was honoured as ‘one of, if not the, outstanding strategists in terms of how international institutions deal with drugs and drug policy’.

The International Studies Association (ISA) also presented in 2007 then TNI Chair of the Board, Dr. Susan George, with its first Outstanding Public Scholar Award at its annual Congress in Chicago. Dr. George also received an Honorary Doctorate in Civil Law from Newcastle University in the UK, and an Honorary Doctorate in Political Science and Sociology at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia in Spain. Longstanding Fellow, Hilary Wainwright was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Huddersfield, UK in 2007.