2020 in Review: Overcoming some of the world’s biggest governmental challenges with the Blavatnik School of Government

Sir Leonard Blavatnik speaking at the Blavatnik School of Government. photo (c) John Cairns.


The Blavatnik Family Foundation has been a proud supporter of the Blavatnik School of Government since 2010, when the School was founded at the University of Oxford as part of its Social Sciences Division.

The School’s vision is to create “a world better led, a world better served and a world better governed”, through its commitment to improving the quality of government and policy making worldwide.

The Blavatnik School prides itself in bringing deeply applied research and policy engagement to big global issues. Each year it releases a report describing its successes in combatting some of our world’s biggest governmental challenges.

The 2020 report shines a spotlight on key areas which have defined the past year. From COVID-19 and 5G technology, to minority rights and climate change, the report highlights the School’s contributions to some of the big challenges that have been front and centre of government policy in recent times, including:

  • Supporting governments in developing countries on steps they can take to maximise the benefits and minimise the liabilities of digital technologies to ensure they bring inclusive growth
  • Examining the vital role of small players such as cities, regions and businesses in preventing and mitigating the effects of climate change
  • Advising the UK government on what the UK’s trade policy will look like after Brexit
  • Supporting efforts to make starvation of civilians a war crime prosecutable by the International Criminal Court

In the annual report’s introduction, the Blavatnik School of Government’s Founding Dean, Professor Ngaire Woods, wrote: “We bring this annual report to you in the midst of a pandemic. Nothing could highlight more starkly the life-and-death importance of good government to the lives of every individual. Improving government worldwide is the mission of the Blavatnik School of Government, and it has never felt more urgent.

“The big challenges facing all governments, from climate change to the current pandemic, are only tractable if there are people dedicated to solving them, armed with the right tools, knowledge and networks.

“The Blavatnik School community is diverse and geographically wide-ranging. What unites us is a mission: to build trust, to bridge divides, and to forge more effective institutions. In its broadest sense, our community includes everyone who cares about good government and strong societies.”

Alongside the wide-ranging topics listed above, one of the most notable outputs of the School over the past year is its Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker. This tool compares worldwide policy responses to the pandemic, helping to understand the effect of government responses to the virus, and whether increasingly strict measures can affect the rate of infection.

The data collected from this project has provided insights into countries’ readiness to exit lockdown by cross checking it with recent WHO recommendations, and is being cited and used by governments (including Heads of State in India, New Zealand and Trinidad and Tobago), businesses and international organisations – not to mention global news outlets such as the Financial Times, New York Times, BBC News and The Economist.

COVID-19 is just the start of the deep dive into the latest Blavatnik School of Government annual report. To read more about the unrivalled work that the School has been producing, read the full report here.