The Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII) is an independent not-for-profit research think tank which focuses on generating new knowledge, information and analysis in the field of poverty and inequality studies.



SPII is an independent research think tank which focuses on generating new knowledge, information and analysis in the field of poverty and inequality studies. Through facilitating collaborative partnerships with and between institutions of democracy academia and civil society organisations, the organisation will be able to develop innovative and promoting sustainable development. It will work to support the development of a tradition of effective public participation in policy making and implementation.


The Vision will be realised through:

  • Bringing together policy makers, analysts and implementers from government, academia and civil society formations, as well as international role players / academics / researchers and activists;
  • Sharing information about poverty and inequality research and policy processes in order to stimulate new areas of collaboration among stakeholders;
  • Constantly identifying further areas of research and / or gaps in current knowledge and to commission such research which will contribute to public knowledge and innovation;
  • Disseminating information and research produced by the Institute to assist in policy development processes and campaigns;
  • Participating in building regional collaboration and disseminating innovative practices focused on fighting poverty and inequality in the Southern African region.

The main objectives of SPII’s founding trustees was to create a safe space within which policy analysts and activist in civil society, researchers, intellectuals and government policy-makers could come together to interrogate the development and implementation of effective evidence-based anti-poverty policies necessary to address the growing level of economic, social and political exclusion and inequalities in South Africa, as well as the Southern Africa region more broadly.


SPII is not just another research and policy institute, it puts emphasis on both content (knowledge) and process (inclusive participation). In addition, SPII’s approach relies on identifying and exploring not only areas of agreement between policy actors, but also areas of dissent. Unspoken assumptions and ideological values will ultimately affect the development of appropriate policies. SPII’s methodology acknowledges this and as a result, SPII provides space for policy actors to challenge their own position and those of their peers and to distinguish between occasion that require intellectual engagement and those that are determined through ideological engagement.


Cutting across all of SPII’s research work is the commitment to a strengthening of public participation in the policy and political arena as an essential condition precedent for South Africa’s constitutionally guaranteed participative democracy. The Constitution of the Republic is the touchstone of the Institute, in particular the Bill of Rights. Supporting people’s active involvement in decision-making processes also emphasizes the agency of individuals and communities, rather than seeing people as passive recipients of the largesse of state or charity.


SPII’s board and staff collectively represent an impressive collection of skills, knowledge and most importantly, experience drawn from a variety of progressive structures and organisations both pre -and post -transition. This social capital provides SPII with access to an extensive network of people both locally, regionally and internationally that we are able to draw on and that qualitatively add to our work.

Background Histroy


Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII) is an independent, not-for-profit based in Johannesburg, South Africa, established in 2006. SPII is rooted in the values of the South African constitution. The organisation believes that poverty undermines democracy and inhabits the development of all aspects of society as a whole.


SPII was established in response to the recognition by the founder trustees of SPII that policy making and policy discourse in South Africa. It had begun to tend towards more confrontational engagements, often ideologically and politically loaded, and away from the former openness and dialogue that had characterised its emerging nation. Substantive discussion about policy choices and options was also becoming increasingly rare as a result of high levels of distrust among and between government, academia and civil society stakeholders.


Theory of Change

SPII believes that:

If we include informed civil society perspectives in research, and

If we engage in well-informed, quality strategic research, and

If we have fieldwork that reaches socio-economically marginalised groups

Then we can effectively analyse the features & drivers of poverty and inequality, support the development of innovative, evidence-based measures for poverty reduction and make specific policies and strategic recommendations for reduction of poverty & inequality.


If we make such compelling recommendations for reduction of poverty & inequality.

If we promote dynamic civil society participation in the debate & support oversight bodies around solutions to poverty & inequality.

We develop strategic relationships with all three arms of government to ensure trust to consider our recommendations.


We ensure a pro poor policy environment, and if so …


We ensure a shift to a faster and more effective reduction of poverty and inequality and promotion of agency amongst all South Africans.

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