Kim Sarnoff and Shotaro Nakamura at work in the research office


Understanding motivation, behaviour and impact in private action for public benefit.

We have adopted a unique model of research, which we refer to as co-generation of knowledge.

We live in a time where there is a tremendous desire to do good, but very little to discipline that instinct and to maximise its positive impact on society. The challenge embraced by the Marshall Institute is to imbue private action for the public good with the science to maximise its impact.

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At the Marshall Institute we have adopted a unique model of research, which we refer to as co-generation of knowledge. We develop our questions and interventions together with our partners, taking advantage of their on-the-ground knowledge and using existing systems and institutional structures. Through this process, we are able to create knowledge of both academic and practical import. The long-term relationships that result make possible the direct incorporation of findings into policy.

This includes empirical research into the motivation and behaviour of individuals or organisations whose activities are intended to serve the public benefit or the social good; the assessment of beneficiary needs to improve the process of generating public benefit; and analyses of the ways in which the impact and effectiveness of such activities for the public benefit might be defined, measured, and enhanced. This also includes the theoretical underpinnings for such activities and their relationship to market failure.

Conversations with leading researchers in the field of private action for public benefit

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Al Roth on how markets can be used to benefit society

Using the example of kidney exchange, Professor Roth explains how he and his colleagues redesigned the market for kidney transplants to ensure that more people would benefit from a transplant. 


Jean Tirole on what drives people to engage in altruistic behaviour

Professor Tirole explains the three drivers of altruism and what role image concerns and gender play in our drive to do good.

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Luigi Zingales on the role of capitalism in private action for public benefit

Professor Zingales discusses how to create efficient ways to allocate buying power to the final user or beneficiary to bring in the element of competition in the third sector.


Examples of research projects