The seeds of the Global Development Network (GDN) were first sown in the World Bank in 1999. They took root and flourished thanks to a group of visionary leaders and donors who recognised GDN’s unique potential to deliver some of the most sought- after outcomes in global public goods research. Then, as now, the need to empower the South to influence development policy debates was pressing. GDN’s vision was for a world in which southern researchers and the institutions – both formal and informal – that incubate them, are placed centre-stage in delivering policy-relevant research.
Expectations of the new organisation were high: James D. Wolfensohn, then President of the World Bank, forecast that GDN would ‘help to build the analytical capacity that will enable countries to design and implement their own development strategies and programs’. To deliver that mission, GDN has sought to build research capacity, foster research in developing and transition economies, disseminate development knowledge to the public and policymakers, and bridge the gap between ideas and policies.
Twelve years after its formation, GDN is a substantial network of researchers, donors, research institutes and think tanks worldwide. To uncover the impact of GDN, we have examined GDN’s past interventions through a number of lenses: from the experiences of individual southern researchers, to the views of those participating in international research projects. The resulting publication gives us much to be proud of. It lets researchers from the Global South speak eloquently about the role the organisation has played in improving the standards of their research; in furthering their careers; and in connecting them with a cadre of researchers and policymakers worldwide in order to be more effective in their work. The publication has helped us to navigate the waters ahead, as GDN realigns its work with the fast-changing political, economic and social environments.