The roots of Institute for State Effectiveness stem from decades of cutting-edge work implementing change in-country, the study of best practices and leading policy transformation in global organizations. In the 1990s, Clare Lockhart and Ashraf Ghani managed a program at the World Bank to improve country strategies and program implementation. It focused on building coalitions for reform, implementing large-scale policies and training the next generation of development professionals to read country context and collaborate with local actors.
In 2001, Clare and Ashraf were called upon by the United Nations to help develop the Bonn Agreement and then, with a team of experts, to support the establishment of governance institutions and country-wide development programs in Afghanistan. They spent several years managing national initiatives including the Afghanistan Development Forum, National Development Framework, National Solidarity Program and a framework for coordination.
Based on their experiences, it became clear that getting reform right at the country level was not possible within the framework of existing aid policy. The Institute for State Effectiveness (ISE) was founded in 2006, with a mission to understand the constraints and challenges of the aid system, and to identify the approaches and methods that work to promote security and economic and social development. The team set out to study challenges in countries from East Timor, Haiti and Kenya to Kosovo, Nepal, Sudan and Uganda. They also began to study stories of successful transitions from East Asia to Europe, Africa and South and Central America. These observations led to the creation of a framework for understanding state functions and the balance between governments, markets and people. ISE’s findings were published in the widely-reviewed book “Fixing Failed States” (2008).
ISE was formed as a result of these journeys, in response to demands from leaders and managers across the world for pragmatic, actionable and accessible tools, frameworks and support as they confronted the challenges and opportunities in their own countries. Over the next five years, the team built out a knowledge base, and a global network of advisors and next generation fellows. Then, in 2011, Ashraf returned to his homeland Afghanistan to lead the Afghan Transition Team and in 2013, launched his Presidential campaign. In 2013, Clare launched the next generation of ISE to accelerate research, theory and impact, and mentor and support the next generation of leaders. To date, ISE has worked in twenty-one countries and developed a range of “how-to” guides and tools. ISE is based in Washington D.C., but is frequently called upon to assess, design and advise on a range of challenges on every continent.