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The Mekong Region Futures Institute (MERFI) combines participatory planning processes, integrated assessments, and local capacity building to effectively contribute to evidence-based decision making leading to more sustainable natural resource management in the Asia Pacific region.

This non-for-profit initiative exists since 2008 as an Australia-funded research for development program, which was then made independent in 2014. The Institute was established in Bangkok and Vientiane by Dr Alex Smajgl and Dr John Ward, formerly senior research scientists with the Australian Government’s science agency, the CSIRO.

MERFI’s core activities include: the social, economic and ecological analysis of development investments; testing conflict resolution institutions and governance options by applying complex system tools and improved cross-sectoral coordination; the assessment of climate change and adaptation options in the context of development priorities and transboundary water-food-energy related trade-offs; livelihood and wellbeing surveys and analysis; the design and facilitation of participatory processes to promote systems learning among decision making agencies; and the development of license free data and analytical tools.


Our vision is to effectively contribute to evidence-based decision making leading  to more sustainable policy outcomes in the Greater Mekong Subregion. We aim to achieve this vision by combining scientific assessment methods, participatory processes and capacity building. Our activities include:

  • the analysis of development investment options by applying complex system tools and by improved cross-sectoral coordination.

  • the implementation of participatory processes to facilitate learning among decision making agencies by eliciting, analyzing and explaining cross-sector trade-offs of development investments among government agencies, universities and research institutions, and civil society.

  • the facilitation of cross-sector dialogue to share experiences about development investments and to minimize cross-sector trade-offs.

  • the development of license free data and analytical tools provided to government agencies, including comprehensive training.

  • the training of Government agency staff in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) to assess sustainability related outcomes of development decisions,  promoting improved national efficiencies in:

    •  sustainable national and regional development
    •  maintenance and improvement of ecosystem services
    •  community capacity to adapt to climate change
    •  poverty reduction
    •  wellbeing and more resilient livelihoods
    •  ability to compete in the world market
  • the education of civil society and affected communities on sustainability and poverty related issues. We will publish our research results in printed and in digital media, and by providing results to newspapers and similar accessible outlets.  This goal will be supported by village level activities in the most vulnerable areas.

  • the promotion of collaboration among institutes, offices, associations, foundations, academic institutes, and private sectors to collect and develop  knowledge in complex systems modelling.                                                                                         

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