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Advancing knowledge, shaping policy, inspiring practice: ODI at 50

Press Release


‘One of the great achievements of ODI was completely transforming the way in which British politics saw aid ... Development has been established as an absolute priority.’Rt. Hon Vince Cable, UK Business Secretary (and former ODI Fellow) speaking at the ODI 50th anniversary launch event


ODI’s 50th anniversary was a time to take stock of five decades of changes and achievements, and map out a course for the future.

Highlights included an ODI timeline, mapping out ODI’s evolution from a small research institute with a handful of staff, to the UK’s leading, and largest, think tank on development and humanitarian issues. Our evolution can be traced in publications that have been newly-digitised to mark our anniversary. Development practitioners worldwide can now access a unique collection spanning key moments and trends over the past half century.

We also looked forwards, ending the anniversary year with the first ODI Development Debate: International Development – the next 20 years, chaired by Jon Snow and with contributions by Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, Dr Linda Yeuh, Dr Andrée Carter and Rakesh Rajani.

The introduction of a new strapline – advancing knowledge, shaping policy, inspiring practice – summarises the essence of our work. ODI has certainly been at the forefront of changes in all three areas over the past 50 years, as a glance at our timeline shows.


Advancing knowledge

We broke new ground in the 1960s with World III: a handbook on development, an early analysis of development, aid, trade and the UN, and our hosting of the first international conference on aid effectiveness. We were the first to study the impact of aid from the communist world and, three decades later, we were among the first to examine the implications for developing countries after the fall of the Berlin Wall.


Shaping policy

In 1970, our lessons learned were summarised in the Pearson Report, which guided the strategy around the UN’s second development decade. In 1980, we contributed to the first ever survey of EEC policies affecting developing countries. Our Centre for Aid and Public Expenditure (CAPE), created in 2000, has influenced the evolution of Poverty Reduction Strategies and new aid instruments over the years.

And in 2008 we provided the first research into the impact of the global financial crisis on developing countries – work that influences policy thinking on the crisis to this day.


Inspiring practice

The ODI Fellowship Scheme was born in 1963, with three young economists posted overseas. Today, 100 ODI Fellows work for government ministries in more than 25 developing countries and two regional bodies.

In 1994 we created the Relief and Rehabilitation Network (later the Humanitarian Practice Network). This response to the Rwandan genocide was the first – and remains the only – independent forum for humanitarians to share what works, and what doesn’t, in emergencies.

And, through the work of our Research and Policy in Development Programme (RAPID), we continue to work with organisations worldwide to share best practice in policy-influencing, helping others to turn research into tangible benefits for the world’s poorest.