To date, academic efforts to research MSIs have been ad hoc and small-scale, largely conducted by individual academics within disciplinary silos. The political function and dynamics of MSIs also remain under-researched, even as many of these initiatives have become significant sites of contention between civil society, governments, and the private sector. In addition, research on MSI functioning has yet to concretely integrate perspectives on MSI functioning from the communities and individuals whose rights and well-being MSIs are intended to address. This fragmentation inhibits the capacity for MSIs to develop as robust and effective global accountability initiatives.

To close this knowledge gap, MSI Integrity partnered with the John Parke Young Initiative on the Global Economy at Occidental College and the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy at the Graduate Institute, Geneva to launch a Global Research Network on MSIs. The Research Network brigns together academics, applied researchers, and MSI practitioners to deepen academic engagement with multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) as governance mechanisms for the private sector. The network facilitates collaboration over research agendas, convenes conferences, and supports robust empirical research on the politics, impacts, and evolution of MSIs. It is an autonomous network and is run separately from MSI Integrity.

The Global Research Network was launched in April 2017 at a workshop hosted by the John Parke Young Initiative at Occidental College. Participants in the two-day workshop included researchers and current and past leaders of MSIs from thirteen countries on five continents. A central goal of the workshop was to bring practitioners and researchers into dialogue about key unresolved questions about the role of MSIs in addressing global human rights, environmental, and governance challenges.

This academic research network was launched with a focus on four workstreams:

(1) Conducting research on the global landscape of MSIs, such as mapping the global landscape of MSIs and publishing comparative data on MSI design, standards, and governance;

(2) Convening a community of thought and practice around MSIs through a series of academic convenings. The first convening was hosted by the John Parke Young Initiative at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California in April 2017. Future convenings are expected to rotate between Global North and Global South institutions;

(3) Supporting the evolution of a multi-disciplinary research agenda that poses important questions regarding the form, function, and impact of MSIs, and coordinating publication of research;

(4) Facilitating research into MSIs by building research networks and connecting researchers with funding sources, MSI practitioners, civil society organizations, and affected communities.

The research network was formed with a Steering Committee of leading scholars and practitioners:

Sanjeev Khagram, Co-Chair, Occidental College/John Parke Young Initiative
Deval Desai, Co-Chair, Harvard Law School Human Rights Program
Jaff Bamenjo, RELUFA – Cameroon
Ann Florini, Singapore Management University, Brookings Institution
Josua Loots, University of Pretoria
Cielo Magno, University of Philippines School of Economics
Anita Ramasastry, University of Washington
Martijn Scheltema, Erasmus University
Mariëtte van Huijstee, SOMO
Claret Vargas, Stanford University
Stepan Wood, York University

Read our latest report, Not Fit-For-Purpose, here.

For more on our new organizational focus, see Beyond Corporations.