Strategic Plan

Strategic Plan 2020-2025


The Royal Anthropological Institute is one of the world’s oldest anthropological associations. Established in its present form in 1871, it is devoted to the pursuit and the promotion for the public good of anthropology in its widest sense. To this end, it publishes learned journals, data-bases, books and occasional publications. Its world-class library was combined with the holdings of the British Museum in the 1980s, and continues to be open to the public as part of the BM research library. Its premises in 50 Fitzroy Street are a major centre of events in anthropology, including seminars, book launches and one-day conferences, the vast proportion of which are open to the general public. It possesses major archives of manuscripts and ethnographic photographs, and has a special interest in ethnographic film, organizing a biannual ethnographic film festival. It organises a major conference on a selected theme every two years. The RAI awards annually a number of awards and prizes, amongst which is the Huxley Medal, the highest medal that it is possible to receive as an anthropologist.

Organisationally, the RAI is registered as a Charity. It was awarded Royal status in 1908. In 2020 the institute was awarded a Charter by the Privy Council. It has approximately 1800 Fellows and Members. Its Council is drawn from the Fellows. The day-to-day operations are co-ordinated by professional staff, amongst whose duties are to facilitate the work of the RAI’s special committees.

The RAI receives no grant from the Treasury. Nevertheless, its finances are sound. It draws its income from a variety of sources: journal publication; data-bases; Fellowship dues; savings, dedicated funds, investments and events.

Strategic Plan

The aim of this strategic plan is to reflect upon the way forward for the institute over the next five years as it seeks to expand and consolidate its place as a world centre of anthropological knowledge. It identifies four areas in particular which will form the focus of our work over the next five years: i) the exploration and deepening of our collaboration with other institutions nationally and internationally, both at our physical base and further afield, ii) the strengthening of the RAI’s engagement with both the public, and with public policy, iii) a major reconsideration of the RAI’s on-line presence. This has the potential to affect almost every area of the RAI’s activities, but in particular will enable us to reach the widest possible audience, and iv) broadening the RAI’s financial base so as to ensure its future. These priorities go alongside our already many flourishing activities, and interact creatively with them.

Collaboration and interaction nationally and internationally

Collaboration is at the heart of all the RAI’s work, collaboration with and between our Fellows, with other scholars nationally and internationally, and with a great variety of other institutions including learned societies, universities, charities and associations in this country and abroad. The great benefit of this can be seen already in many ways; we have historically worked very closely with the British Museum, and our most recent major project ‘Anthropology and Geography’, a large conference, is a co-operation between the RAI, the British Academy, the Royal Geographic Society, the British Museum and the School of Oriental and African Studies. We have also been very pleased to welcome delegations from Austria, Poland, France, Norway, and Brazil, which form part of our explorations of the way anthropology is pursued in different areas around the world. We have also been very pleased to welcome the Folklore Society, which now shares our premises with us.

Over the next five years we will review our existing links, and seek to renew and strengthen them. Additionally, we will explore the possibility of creating a learned societies ‘hub’, with the idea of bringing together a number of learned societies under the same roof, so as to share best practice, and develop ideas and activities together. This, whilst important in itself, may also lead to ways that we can mutually strengthen our societies in a most uncertain world.

Engagement and Public Policy

The RAI has from its foundation engaged with public policy. However, through the granting of its Charter in 2020, this aspect of its work gains a strong impetus. There is a very great range of possible applications of anthropology, and we will explore the most appropriate way that we can identify policy needs, and bring together the intellectual capacity to respond to them. To this end, we have founded a new Policy committee, but all Fellows of the RAI will be invited to share in how best we can shape up to this new development.

The RAI’s virtual presence

The RAI has always sought to utilize developments in publishing and other media, but the recent acceleration of electronic forms of communication in a multiplicity of ways, and the potential for these to affect almost every aspect of our activities, has made us realise that it is a priority to review, and to render more coherent our different initiatives in this area. By the end of the five year period, we would have reckoned to have put in place a vastly improved virtual presence that will help us communicate better not only with our Fellows, but all who are interested, or who may wish to learn from anthropology and the insights that it can bring.

Financial Strategy

The RAI gains no standing grant from the Treasury. For this reason, it has learnt to rely on its own publishing and related activities in order to get by. Nevertheless, the trading and investment climate is changing so quickly that we need to be thoroughly prepared for any challenges that the future may bring. To this end, we will review our fundraising policies and seek to put in place the most appropriate initiatives that will enable a diverse yet robust financial programme going forwards.



The RAI will seek to deepen and strengthen its collaboration with its Fellows, other institutions and scholars, both nationally and internationally. It will

  • Maintain and enhance the premises of the RAI and its collections so that it becomes a welcoming and open forum for anthropological knowledge and research.
  • Explore the possibilities of a learned society’s ‘hub’ and the acquisition of larger premises that will facilitate links with related associations, scholars and the wider community.
  • Continue to build on partnerships here and overseas with other anthropological institutions.
  • Build links and increase community engagements in order to maximise the impact of the RAI.
  • Grow the RAI’s Fellowship and provide maximum possibilities for the Fellows to interact with its activities, committees and events at whatever stages of their career, so that the institute is as attractive to young persons beginning their careers to those who are long retired.


  • Provide, and improve, high-quality services dedicated to the public education and understanding of anthropology in its widest sense in this country and internationally.
  • Effectively meet the needs of stakeholders by providing flexible and active responses to identified needs within anthropology.
  • Expand the range and variety of the activities of the institute so as to appeal to the widest possible audience, at all stages of life and career.
  • Ensure that the Trustees and activities of the institute reflect the diversity of the anthropological community
  • Create a programme of public engagement, one that features the archives of the institute.

The RAI will seek to build capacity in its on-line environment through

  • The creation of virtual anthropological resources
  • A review of its on-line activities, leading to a streamlined web-presence that is aimed at reaching a much larger audience.
  • Presenting seminars and conferences on-line.
  • Continuing to explore the possibilities presented by Open Access


  • Ensure the organisation’s long-term financial stability by making well-informed business and investment decisions.
  • It will continue to seek to maintain existing income streams and create new ones.
  • It will seek to increase its endowments so as to help to ensure the RAI’s future.
  • It will develop its applications to funding bodies and to other philanthropic institutions so as to increase the project finance that is available for its various activities.