From our inception in 1979 within the University of Oxford to a global development consultancy, we have been dedicated to supporting policymaking around the world.
Where we started
We started in 1979 as a team of four people in the Food Studies Group at the University of Oxford. Back then we focused on addressing agricultural and food security problems in Africa. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, we built and strengthened our capabilities, establishing some of the specialisms for which we are renowned today, including economic development, social policy, health care, public financial management, and statistics.
During this period, we delivered landmark work, including:
- Researching and establishing one of the first nationwide food security monitoring systems, in Kenya;
- Conducting the first living standard measurement surveys in Angola’s capital, Luanda, helping influence the government to liberalise the food and retail market.
- Helping inform agricultural policy during South Africa’s democratic transition, removing subsidies and introducing interventions to support large scale farmers.
The early years
In 1996, we were established as a limited company, separate from the University, with the objective of combining high-quality analysis and practical experience to reduce social and economic disadvantage in low- and middle-income countries.
Our new organisation was owned by staff, former employees, and those who believed in our vision. This commitment to employee ownership and empowerment continues today through our Employee Benefit Trust, formed in 2017.
Our work continued to bring about transformative change; our public expenditure reviews in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan underpinned social policy decisions in newly independent states following the breakup of the Soviet Union; and in Armenia our support to the Gegharkunik and Tavush regional administrations led to nationwide adoption of our policymaking approaches.
Over time, we increased both the number of countries we supported and the funders and partners we collaborated with. In the early 2000s, our ‘Making markets work for the poor’ framework and ‘Drivers of pro-poor change’ political economy analysis tools helped to shape the newly established UK Department of International Development’s core policies.
By the mid-2000s, we were fulfilling our ambition of working in an integrated way within multiple sectors and across the policy cycle. We broadened our expertise still further into social services, extractive industries, and climate change. But we knew that to have the biggest impact and the deepest understanding, we needed to be rooted in the countries where we work, benefiting from a diversity of experience and developing strong relationships with country governments and partners.
In 2007, we opened our office in Pakistan - the first office in our Asia and Africa network. In the following years, we established offices in India (2009), South Africa (2009), Bangladesh (2011), Indonesia (2011), Nepal (2013), Nigeria (2014), Tanzania (2014), and Kenya (2014).
Through these offices, we not only deliver projects for our funders but act as a supportive facilitator, brokering relationships across policymaking and academia, practitioner and funder; joining local, national, and international institutions together in our shared goal to bring about sustainable positive change.
Some of these most impactful projects include:
- Informing the improvement and scaling up of the Hunger Safety Net Programme, an unconditional cash transfer for vulnerable households in four of the poorest counties in Kenya, through our evaluation recommendations.
- Increasing the transparency and accountability within Nigeria’s extractive sectors.
- Strengthening governance within the forestry sector in Indonesia and contributing to poverty alleviation for those communities dependent on forestland for their livelihoods.
- Mobilising over $1.5 billion to drive greater climate change action, supporting the delivery of 30 climate-proofed policies, programmes, and budgets across Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan.
- Supporting the reduction of the barriers disadvantaged young urban women in Mozambique face in finding decent work, resulting in a noticeable increase in women’s employability.
Our offices in the USA and Australia opened in 2017, and Germany in 2019, enabling us to work more closely with major funders in these countries, to better ensure the delivery of our purpose.
Oxford Policy Management today
Today we are a global team of 450 people supporting governments across the world and working in a wide range of sectors. Our heritage as part of the University of Oxford is not forgotten; we continue to be defined by the rigorous analytical skills that we started out with.
We continue to develop cutting-edge methods, building on our work to spearhead Value for Money assessments and leading Political Economy Analysis approaches. We are working at the nexus of development and new technologies, including AI and data innovation.
Alongside implementing policy change projects in the many countries we work in, we have also come to specialise in large-scale, multiyear, multi-country research programmes. We have led long-term multinational research programmes in areas of economic development and institutions, education and learning outcomes, energy and economic growth, evidence use, extreme poverty, early childhood development, and more. Bringing together academic expertise with expert programme management and research-into-policy action is a cornerstone of our belief in the importance of evidence-based decision-making.
Our vision has remained constant throughout our 45-year history: for fair public policy that benefits both people and the planet. We continue to strongly believe that good public policy can transform the lives of millions of people.