The Arab region over the last decade has seen the emergence of a new generation of social scientists – a relatively small but growing group – who are seeking to use their research for the purpose of informing the public sphere and contributing to setting the public policy agenda. These academics’ efforts are an attempt to overcome the unresponsive channels of State-centered policymaking and imagine new approaches to policy change that are anchored in civic participation. They are not only reacting to the paralysis of traditional policymaking or a response to large social movements rocking the region in the last decade but are also seeking to counter the neoliberal reforms in university systems that have weakened the role of academic institutions in public agenda setting and have drained professors in highly competitive races over tenureship.

To advance their efforts, this new crop of scholars has sought to disseminate their research through new avenues outside the realm of academia and has launched or joined new academic institutions and civil society initiatives with the explicit purpose of rendering research results more accessible and actionable. In this context, “Fostering Critical Policy Analysis” aims to provide academic capacity building and create diverse fora for discussion to help in this bridging of academic expertise and policy development. More precisely, in working with social scientists across the region and building academic partnerships, we aim to reinforce the ability of members of the social science research community to utilize their knowledge production for the purpose of improving public policies.

Project Pillars

  • Building the Policy Profile of Social Scientists

ARI is now running a program of capacity building with social scientists interested in having a policy impact in order to promote their efforts in the production and dissemination of evidence-based research. This includes developing their technical skills in producing policy relevant research and recommendations; providing them with opportunities for publication and dissemination in a variety of formats and venues at the local, regional, and international levels; and producing an online toolbox for policy-writing and dissemination process. Scholars who successfully complete the course will be eligible to publish their papers on the ARI website, translated into either English or Arabic, after a thorough internal review process.

  • In-depth research papers and webinars assessing the transformations in pathways to policy change in the Arab region

Scaling-up the capacity of knowledge producers includes understanding how scholars are contributing to agenda-setting and policy influence and how this process is occurring in different contexts, as well as the opportunities and constraints to scholars’ contribution to policymaking and contributing to shaping public opinion. In this light, ARI is producing a series of in-depth research papers and webinars that address these topics from the perspectives of experts in the region, who can place the production of scholarly knowledge within a broader perspective of pathways to policy change in the Arab region today; reconceive of knowledge as a public good; and assess the shifts, opportunities, and constraints for academic participation in policy development across the Arab region.

  • Strengthening the Role of Higher Education Institutions in Policy Development

The creation of partnerships of support and exchange between academic centers and civil society institutions set up by academics seeking policy impact is an essential pillar of this project. Through a series of closed online meetings, face-to-face workshops, and public conferences, these dialogues will allow for collective reflection on how to occupy the intersection of academic expertise and policy development, how to engage with publics and policymaking processes in different national and sub-national contexts. These events will center around various thematic questions such as social protection, youth, women, or the environment, as well as questions such as where to publish, how to democratize knowledge, coalition-building, and how to inform policymaking processes.


Papers on Critical Policy Analysis

The below papers were produced by participants in the training programme on “Critical Policy Analysis” under the “Fostering Critical Policy Analysis” project funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Abderrafie Zaanoun (Morocco)

Ahmed Mohsen (Egypt)

Maha Bouhlel (Tunisia)

Manal Elshihry (Egypt)

Rawad Ballan (Syria)

Soufien Jaballah (Tunisia)