A message from the CEO
2022 marks 30 years since Adam Smith International was founded. A huge milestone.
I’ve served the company for nearly half its history and it’s a great honour and privilege, both personally and professionally, to now lead ASI and our incredible people – from London, Nairobi, Delhi, Washington DC and Canberra, to Peshawar, Port Moresby, Mogadishu, Baghdad, and Bamako – into the future.
As we look forward to a fourth decade of operations and consider the challenges and opportunities the world faces in the 2020s, it’s worth looking back in the rear-view mirror to take some time to reflect on and celebrate the ASI journey.
The Journey Begins
The ASI journey began with two epoch-defining geopolitical and economic events: the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the Washington Consensus on global and macro-economic policies. These events created demand for the sorts of ‘expertise and best practice’ driven policy advice that had been instrumental in the reframing of the relationship between the state and the economy in liberal western democracies such as the UK and USA. The International Division of the Adam Smith Institute was founded in response to this demand, and to apply technical approaches to economic and governance reform in the countries of the Eastern Bloc and the developing world.
In 1992, Adam Smith International spun out of the Institute and was established as an independent advisory firm led by Peter Young, who, as a student politician, had gained a certain cachet for his arrest in Poland during the 1980s for working with the Polish democratic opposition. Those days, ASI ran out of Peter’s front room in Camberwell in London, but soon moved to offices on Albert Embankment.
Aid in the 1990s
In the early 1990s the UK’s Overseas Development Agency was a relative backwater – the establishment of a stand-alone Department for International Development with a seat in the Cabinet, were some years in the future. Much of our work then, funded by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, involved working with newly enfranchised democratic governments in Eastern Europe (Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Ukraine and the Russian Federation) to develop their policy agendas. This established ASI’s reputation for successfully engaging with the political as well as technical dimensions of reforms.
In the expanding world of international aid, the pendulum began to gradually swing away from agriculture extension and infrastructure towards support for economic reform as the neo-liberal economic policies of Thatcher and Reagan began to trickle into development work through bilateral and multilateral agencies. ASI began to provide advisory services on components of large IMF and World Bank Structural Adjustment Programmes in several countries across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Through this period, programmes began to grow in ambition, size, complexity and duration against a backdrop of a rapidly-growing aid budget in the UK and other large donors. In response, the emphasis of our work began to shift from policy advice assistance to delivery – i.e. getting stuff done.
Liberal Intervention & State-Building
In 2001 geopolitics intervened again: 9/11 shook the world and changed ASI’s trajectory. Our reputation for being nimble and creative dates back to this period: an ASI team, having journeyed over Afghanistan’s Khyber Pass to Kabul while fighting continued, was on the ground in early 2002 and played a central role in designing some of the UK’s innovative and successful early governmental reform programmes. It was in Kabul that I first met ASI staff while serving as a World Bank official. ASI programmes were renowned for hiring high-quality advisers and for delivering impact, and ASI staff were passionate and highly result-oriented – a trait that is still core to ASI today.
In some ways, this period of ASI’s history was ‘expeditionary’ in its nature and scale, as we deployed at short notice and often at considerable scale in conflict-affected countries. This was exciting work, but it came at a cost: tragically, we lost close friends, colleagues and counterparts to hostile action in Afghanistan and later Iraq.
But we’re proud of our achievements through these years. It’s a testament to the quality of that work that one of the very few areas of British endeavour praised by the Iraq Inquiry was the ‘centre of government’ institutions we helped establish. We’re proud too of our efforts to establish a tax administration in Afghanistan that raised billions of dollars in tax revenue for the Afghan government. And while we look on with dismay at the situation in Afghanistan today, we are incredibly proud of the work we did on girl’s education there and the support our programmes provided to a generation of school children.
Since 2012, we have grown into a global employee-owned advisory business that strengthens and stabilises economies and societies around the world. ASI now has presence in over 100 countries with seven international hubs (London, Sydney, Nairobi, Islamabad, Sydney, Amsterdam and Washington DC) as well as dozens of project offices across the globe. Our projects cover a wide range of areas including stabilisation, humanitarian response, climate change, infrastructure, market systems development, mining, governance and public financial management.
No Strangers to Controversy
ASI has won plaudits and honours for our work around the world, but we’re no strangers to controversy either. We fully recognise that aid, conditionalities, and the external support for the reform of sovereign nations are, at times, intensely controversial. For instance, our work on India’s and Tanzania’s privatisation programmes, and support for Palestine’s political negotiations with Israel made headlines early on.
In more recent years, our assistance to the moderate opposition in Syria has been the target of misinformation and disinformation from Kremlin-supported media outlets. In the UK, our rapid growth and relatively high profile meant we were often targeted by those opposed to UK’s aid spending within government and the media. Needless to say, our work for some of the world’s most scrutinised agencies in some of the world’s most contested spaces continues to keep my colleagues and, in particular, our press team busy.
Today, our mission is to transform lives by making economies stronger, societies more stable, and governments more effective. Our tagline is “Think. Deliver. Transform” – and it captures our promise to think creatively about complex problems, deliver change through local and global partnerships, and transform lives through the impact of our work.
Over the years, we have continued to deliver exceptional projects that deliver real impact and address some of the toughest development challenges around the world. Our efforts supporting girls’ education in Pakistan, electrification in Nigeria, spearheading market systems development in the Solomon Islands, and stabilisation in Somalia are flagship programmes that we are incredibly proud of. By helping governments deliver, we have transformed lives at scale in both fragile and conflict affected states as well as in emerging economies across the globe.
We have had high highs, and low lows. But I would like to think that we have learnt from every experience we have had and have grown into a mature business that has much to look forward to as we step into our fourth decade.
There is no doubt that we managed to grow primarily because of our people. We have earned a reputation for hiring and nurturing top-calibre people in our sector, who are, by far, our most valuable asset. There have been many challenges along the way that needed courage, passion and perseverance. But we could have not made it this far without the support and trust of our staff, associates, and clients who have shared our passion to take on big challenges and achieve lasting results and it is them that I would like to thank on this occasion. Our people have helped us read the trends in geopolitics and in international aid, and are the reason we have continued to be relevant three decades since we started out.
To our staff: It is an honour to work with such talented, dedicated, and passionate people every day. ASI’s growth and success has been linked to your commitment to putting our clients’ needs first, whether aid agencies or developing countries’ governments, businesses, civil society and people we serve. The ASI alumni are among the strongest allies we have, and I owe you all a huge debt of gratitude for building ASI.
To our associates: As an organisation that has run for 30 years, we understand the importance of establishing a collaborative partnership that adds significant value to ASI. Thank you for your dedication, deep expertise, and skills in helping us serve governments, international organisations, companies, and foundations around the world.
To our clients and partners: Thank you for trusting in us for all these years. It is an honour to be asked to deliver such interesting projects around the globe and we will endeavour to design and deliver your projects at ever higher standards and ever greater impact every year.
As I look at our balanced portfolio serving multiple clients, our global spread, and our broad technical offer, I sometimes like to muse that ASI’s future will be driven less by wild swings in geopolitics or by the flavour of the day when it comes to aid policy and programming. But there’s a full-scale war going on between major sovereign states in mainland Europe. The worst impacts of the global slowdown are yet to be felt, there is the very real prospect of famine following hard on the heels of pandemic in many of the countries in which we work, and the urgency of addressing climate change and biodiversity loss is being undermined by challenges of energy security and inflation. Gains made in development over several decades of painstaking work stand to be reversed.
I am convinced that there’s never been a greater need to deploy experts who can help to prepare governments to meet the challenges of our time, and to deliver emergency relief and reconstruction where they can’t. I commit to all our friends and colleagues that ASI will remain at the centre of the action, remaining focused on getting stuff done in the most challenging circumstances through sustainable impact, effective collaboration, and lasting partnerships.
CEO, Adam Smith International
ASI: a timeline
Adam Smith International was established to support countries emerging from the collapse of the Soviet Union to design and implement key reforms.
With projects in several countries, our programmes continue to diversify and grow in size, scope and ambition.
We opened our first office in Africa, in Kenya’s capital Nairobi where we set up to establish a regional office with the intention to support Kenya’s role as a regional leader. We now have offices across the continent. ASI has played a key role in regional integration and improved trade conditions, as well as employment opportunities.
We established a permanent office in Australia to support the Australian aid programme and other clients in Asia and the Pacific. Today, we operate in 15 countries across the region, having started as a small office in Sydney.
Through our Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Education Sector Programme (KESP) we started supporting the local government to improve children’s enrolment, retention, and learning by undertaking comprehensive reforms across a range of areas. A decade of delivery later, this programme is responsible for improving education access and quality for almost 4 million children in the province and empowering over 81,000 teachers with transformational educational tools.
We started another flagship programme that would run for nearly a decade, the Somalia Stability Fund (SSF). The programme contributed to the development of a peaceful, stable, and secure Somalia. Despite a difficult environment, SSF has invested in 190 projects throughout Somalia. Moreover, it is responsible for the construction of the Barawe airstrip, which provides access to markets, medical supplies, and humanitarian aid to the 100,000-person town.
We became a certified B Corp, demonstrating the company’s ability to meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency, and legal accountability at the time with the second highest score in the UK. Today, the B Corp community is a community of companies using business for good by continuously demonstrating a balance between profit and purpose.
With famines, wars, effects of climate change and population shifts, there’s never been a greater need to deploy experts who can help to prepare governments to meet the challenges of our time, and to deliver emergency relief and reconstruction where they can’t.
30 YEARS OF GLOBAL IMPACT: Key Stories and Project Case Studies
10 years in ASI Australia
In conjunction with our 30th anniversary of Adam Smith International (ASI) worldwide, ASI Australia is celebrating its 10th anniversary. With the establishment of a permanent office in Australia in 2012, ASI provides support to the Australian Aid program and other Asian and Pacific clients.
Message from the Director of Asia Pacific
As we commemorate our 30th anniversary of Adam Smith International (ASI) globally, we also celebrate 10 years of ASI Australia. In 2012, ASI established a permanent office in Australia to support the Australian aid programme and other clients in Asia and the Pacific. From our humble beginnings in a small office in Sydney, we now operate in 15 countries across the region.
Today, our mission is to transform lives by making economies stronger, societies more stable, and governments more effective. Over the decade, we have delivered projects and other assignments that have achieved real impact and addressed some of the big challenges facing countries. Through the TOMAK project – Farming for Prosperity – we are working with the government and other partners in Timor-Leste to improve agricultural livelihoods, contributing to positive gains in food security, nutritional status and the incomes of farming communities.
We are delivering the Strongim Bisnis project in Solomon Islands, partnering with the government, local businesses, and other organisations to increase productivity in a range of economic markets by helping partners access income-earning opportunities and building a more resilient economy. Through the Samoa Governance Support Programme, we helped the Samoan government to develop and implement complex policy and institutional reforms, as well as manage the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recently, ASI became a delivery partner of Partnerships for Infrastructure (P4I), the Australian government’s exciting initiative to partner with Southeast Asian governments and ASEAN on improving the development of quality economic infrastructure. This will be particularly important as governments across the region look to infrastructure to stimulate economic recovery and job creation. These are just some examples of our projects, but our contribution to economic development in Asia and the Pacific runs much deeper.
2022 is special year for ASI Australia for another reason. It is the year we launched our first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) as an outward expression of our commitment to reconciliation in Australia. As a B Corp, we believe in harnessing the power of business to contribute to solving society’s most challenging problems. We recognise our responsibility to promote economic opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and we are proud to have taken concrete steps to make this happen.
For a decade now, ASI has been on a journey to deepen our connection with Australia and the wider Asia-Pacific region and integrate the best of it within our global company. I would like to thank all our employees, associates, partners and clients that have contributed to making ASI Australia a successful story so far. I look forward to us continuing to make a difference and achieve real impact in the years ahead, in the meantime, have a look at some of our current work in the region.
Director Asia Pacific
10 YEARS OF IMPACT IN SOUTHEAST ASIA: Key Stories and Project Case Studies
Celebrating our Colleagues
30 years of ASI would not have been possible without the great work and dedication of all our employees.
We are, therefore, proud to celebrate our longest serving employees some of whom have been with us for almost two decades!
Our colleagues have played an integral role in the continued success of ASI with the shared vision towards achieving transformational impact across the globe in the most challenging environments.