Established in 2010, the Global Research Institute (GRI) is an applied social science think tank, the principal goals of which are to encourage and support knowledge discovery and dissemination regarding great global issues, and to provide an institutional platform for UNC-Chapel Hill to participate more fully in key global conversations and debates.
Over the years the GRI has pursued such goals via the publication of books, essays, white papers, and opinion pieces; sponsorship of international conferences; hosting seminars, colloquia, and public lecture series; funding external and internal research fellows; supporting the development of an innovative program in global food studies; and co-teaching several courses. For the first eight years of its existence, the GRI organized its activities around focused themes, concentrating over multi-year periods on a key global issue or problem, analyzed from multiple perspectives. Between 2010-2012, the institute worked on problems arising from the financial crisis and the Great Recession. Over the next three years, the institute shifted its attention to pressing global water issues, ranging from hydrology to “WASH” (water, sanitation, and hygiene). Between 2016 and 2018 issues relating to food and food security were stressed. During this period, the GRI supported a number of external and internal fellows who worked on the themes mentioned above while in residence at the GRI, which is located on the fourth floor of the FedEx Global Education Center. The thematic approach was quite successful in substantive terms, but also quite expensive, which led leadership at UNC to transition to a more cost-effective mode of operation.
As a result, since 2018 the GRI has worked under a new model designed to enable the Institute to serve as a catalyst for globalization at UNC and in the state through the promotion of global engagement and intramural and extramural collaborations of various types, while continuing to produce and disseminate high-quality, non-partisan, evidence-based research on salient global issues, including those with important local and regional effects and implications. Between 2018 and 2020, for example, a research team organized under the auspices of the GRI partnered with engineers at North Carolina State University on a grant from the NC Department of Transportation to develop an economic development plan for two of the poorest regions in North Carolina. During this same period, the GRI has continued to organize and convene research colloquia (including a funded three-year faculty seminar on the future of capitalism), sponsor or co-sponsor lectures and conferences, and host distinguished international scholars visiting UNC. Just as importantly, it has expanded and diversified its research portfolio, and continued to produce and disseminate new global research in a variety of formats.
In these troubled, even perilous times for globalization and, indeed, for global engagement more generally, the role played by the GRI, we believe, is needed more than ever.