IPS is a community of public scholars and organizers linking peace, justice, and the environment in the U.S. and globally. We work with social movements to promote true democracy and challenge concentrated wealth, corporate influence, and military power.
As Washington’s first progressive multi-issue think tank, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) has served as a policy and research resource for visionary social justice movements for over four decades — from the anti-war and civil rights movements in the 1960s to the peace and global justice movements of the last decade. Some of the greatest progressive minds of the 20th and 21st centuries have found a home at IPS, starting with the organization’s founders, Richard Barnet and Marcus Raskin. IPS scholars have included such luminaries as Arthur Waskow, Gar Alperovitz, Saul Landau, Bob Moses, Rita Mae Brown, Barbara Ehrenreich, Roger Wilkins and Orlando Letelier.
Today the Institute’s work is organized into more than a dozen projects, reflecting our public scholars’ diverse areas of expertise. In practice, these projects collaborate strategically to pursue three overarching policy goals:
Every human being has the right to security, both economic and social. From China to Palestine to Afghanistan to the borders of our own nation, IPS scholars believe that such security is only possible when governments deal with their citizens and with each other based on principles of mutual respect, human rights, and international law.
The world’s wealth derives in large part from resources that belong to all of us. Extreme income inequality is both unfair and unsustainable. The Institute’s work explicitly links the welfare of people in the United States to the welfare of people in impoverished countries and emphasizes the need to reverse the global and national policies accelerating inequality.
Each of us has the right to clean air, land, water, and food. We have a responsibility to keep the planet habitable for future generations of humans and other living things. IPS scholars monitor the negative role of the World Bank and other international financial institutions in climate-altering fossil fuel investment. We collaborate with international efforts to keep the alternative economy and energy movements focused on truly sustainable solutions.
No government funding: Since it is difficult to “speak truth to power” if one takes funds from that “power,” IPS does not accept any government money.
Public scholarship: IPS turns “ideas into action” through staff who combine inter-disciplinary research and writing skills with activist experience, based on the belief that dynamic social movements drive most social change.
Building alternatives: At least half of the Institute’s work focuses on positive alternatives to current policies and institutions. Some of this work is transformational and visionary, laying out alternative systems and institutions. Some offers steps toward those larger transformations.
Social inventions: IPS has created many projects that then spin off into independent organizations, such as the Government Accountability Project and the Institute for Southern Studies, or become government initiatives, such as the National Teacher Corps in the 1960s and 1970s.
The power of convening: With progressive movements often weakened by their fragmentation, IPS convenes unlikely allies to meet new challenges for peace, justice, and the environment.
Local, National, Global
From the start, IPS has operated simultaneously at the local, national and global levels.
Local: Since 1980, IPS has run an evening school for activists in Washington, DC. From the start, IPS has also worked with local officials and has brought groups of such officials to Washington to amplify their message.
National: Much of IPS’s policy work is aimed at the national level, and IPS has always worked closely with, and provided analysis and model pieces of legislation to, progressive members of Congress. Currently, IPS advises the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which, with more than 70 members, is the largest non-party Caucus.
Global: IPS founded the Transnational Institute (TNI) in 1973 to bring together public scholars from around the world to tackle the growing divide between rich and poor nations and peoples around the world. Since then, IPS has been involved in international networks of researchers and activists to oppose corporate-led globalization (and U.S. intervention) and to propose citizen-based alternatives. Under the Bush Administration, IPS has helped catalyze the global peace movement, which the New York Times referred to as the “second superpower.”