Our history

The Institute for Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Integrity (MSI Integrity) is a nonprofit organization that was incubated at the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School from 2010-2012. We established MSI Integrity after several NGOs and government officials — concerned with understanding whether MSIs were working — expressed the need for an independent organization to focus on measuring the effectiveness of MSIs.

MSI Integrity was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) organization in late 2012 and launched publicly in 2013. We launched with a mission of understanding the human rights impact and value of voluntary multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) that address business and human rights. MSI Integrity researched key questions surrounding the effectiveness of MSIs, facilitated learning and capacity building in the field, and developed tools to evaluate initiatives from a human rights perspective. MSI Integrity took a particular interest in how MSIs include, empower, and impact affected communities. 

MSI Integrity ultimately envisioned a world where the private sector respects and protects human rights and the environment; a world where corporations are held accountable for any human rights abuses they commit, and provide remediation for any harm caused.

After our launch, we held a global consultation in 2013 to seek feedback on our mission, objectives, and methodology. Until the release of our 2020 report, Not Fit-For-Purpose, we had worked to build a small, globally recognized NGO that fosters a culture of critical reflection on whether MSIs are effective at protecting and promoting human rights. Rather than conduct this work ourselves, our strategic approach was to partner with organizations from both the Global South and Global North in order to encourage further critical interrogation into MSIs and build capacity and knowledge about evaluating MSIs.

After a decade of intensive research and analysis in the MSI field, MSI Integrity concluded that while MSIs may facilitate dialogue and learning, they are not effective tools to ensure that corporations respect human rights, to hold corporations accountable for abuse, or to provide rights holders with access to remedy for abuses.

A New Direction: 2020+

Following the release of Not Fit-For-Purpose, MSI Integrity began exploring a human rights project that has received little attention in the field but is perhaps the most significant and transformative of our time: challenging the corporation itself and reimagining our economic enterprises. In 2020, MSI Integrity embarked on a new focus: learning from the failures of MSIs in global governance and human rights protection to move beyond corporations and envision businesses as centering workers and communities in their ownership and governance. For more information, please see: Beyond Corporations.

Consistent with these values, over 2021-2022 we began evolving into operating as worker self-directed nonprofit.

As we ventured further into this new work, we realized that what we fundamentally wanted was to nurture a vision for human rights and economic justice that is grounded in shifting power to workers and communities. Our works on MSIs and reimagining corporations were simply manifestations of that. We imagined doing this work by:

  1. Identifying new or underexplored issues and approaches that: (a) have the capacity to transform or influence those fields and/or (b) put workers and communities at the center of the approaches that aim to improve their lives and livelihoods.
  2. Supporting and incubating projects that can advance those overlooked issues and approaches.
  3. Nurturing leaders and communities who have the capacity to act radically and embody transformative changes.
  4. Working to energize the individuals and communities who are committed to building a worker- and community-centered approach to human rights and economic justice

With these big visions, we made a series of decisions between 2022-2023 as both a collective of staff and board that a different structure and group of people would be needed to do this new work. Watch this space for announcements about these new changes.

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Our Principles

MSI Integrity has always been committed to independence, transparency and human rights principles. We seek to facilitate a culture of open dialogue and debate in all aspects of our work.