The SMERU Research Institute is an independent research institute officially founded in 2001 with the aim of achieving quality and constructive research. Its founders are Dr. Sudarno Sumarto, Dr. Syaikhu Usman, Ir. Sri Kusumastuti Rahayu, M.E., and Bambang Sulaksono, M.M.
SMERU’s birth is inseparable from the 1998 Financial Crisis. At that time, no independent and reliable monitoring institutions could provide timely information on the impact of the crisis. The situation prompted multilateral donors in Indonesia to establish the Social Monitoring and Early Response Unit (SMERU), which was managed by the World Bank.
SMERU then conducted a survey down to the subdistrict level via postal services to learn about the state of food, health, and education across Indonesia. The survey results served as the basis for the formulation of the Special Market Operation policy, which was later developed and perfected in several national social assistance programs to date.
When SMERU concluded its undertaking as the World Bank’s working unit in late 2000, SMERU’s staff took the initiative to form an independent organization called The SMERU Research Institute, which focuses on poverty and public policy studies. Initially, SMERU received grants from the Australian Aid (AusAID), Ford Foundation, and Department for International Development/DFID (now Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office/FCDO). Today, SMERU’s finances are fully obtained through competitive research funding.
SMERU also works with local governments to study their roles in reducing poverty and inequality, specifically relating to health, education, and sustainable livelihoods. This collaboration began with a study on the preparation and implementation of regional autonomy, which has officially been in force since 2001.
SMERU’s Contributions and Achievements
SMERU's analysis of poverty dynamics contributed to the concept of vulnerability, which remains applicable in the social protection system to date.
SMERU designed the first comprehensive poverty map down to the village level in Indonesia. This project commenced in 2001 and the map was released in 2005. The national-scale poverty map uses the small area estimation method and has been utilized by academics, government and nongovernment program administrators, and the private sector.
An article by SMERU staff Asep Suryahadi, Wenefrida Widyanti, Daniel Perwira, and Sudarno Sumarto, “Minimum Wage Policy and Its Impact on Employment in the Urban Formal Sector”, published in the Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies (vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 29–50, April 2003), Australian National University, received the H.W. Arndt Prize from the journal.
SMERU took part in evaluating the implementation of government social assistance programs, including Rice for Poor Households (Raskin), Direct Cash Transfer (BLT), and School Operational Assistance (BOS). Administrators used the evaluation results to improve program implementation.
SMERU participated in the formulation of Indonesian Vision 2030 by the Indonesia Forum Foundation. SMERU specifically contributed by developing two dimensions of the Indonesian Vision 2030: (i) Subsidy Policy, Social Protection System, Improved Income Equality, and Poverty Alleviation; and (ii) the Policy of Labor Market Reform and Productivity Improvement.
Indonesia was affected by the global financial crisis during 2008–2009. To anticipate the social and economic impacts of this crisis, the Government of Indonesia formed a monitoring team coordinated by the Ministry of National Development Planning/National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) with members comprising Statistics Indonesia, World Bank, and SMERU with support from AusAID. SMERU’s primary tasks were to carry out media monitoring, secondary data analysis, and qualitative monitoring at the local level. The results of this monitoring activity enabled the government to anticipate and mitigate the impact of the crisis.
SMERU was entrusted by the Ministry of National Development Planning/Bappenas to develop the Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Poverty Reduction (MP3KI). MP3KI was adopted in the National Medium-Term Development Plan (RPJMN) 2014–2019.
SMERU started organizing a series of Regional Development Forums (FPD) to expand the reach of its research dissemination. SMERU initiated FPD to facilitate policy dialogues with national- and regional-level stakeholders.
SMERU was appointed to lead the Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE) Programme in Indonesia. It is a large-scale, multi-country research program aimed at understanding education systems in developing countries to address learning quality crises. SMERU was the only local institution entrusted to lead a national RISE Program among several institutions in seven countries implementing similar programs.
SMERU assisted the Ministry of National Development Planning/Bappenas in developing and measuring the Inclusive Economic Development Index (IEDI) at the provincial and kabupaten (district)/kota (city) levels. The government can use IEDI to determine the direction of policies for each region and ensure their alignment with national policies to increase the inclusiveness of development.
SMERU carried out nine national- and regional-level studies in 2020 and seven studies in 2021 to examine the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on the socioeconomic conditions of the Indonesian people, particularly in relation to poverty and human development. SMERU also studied the effectiveness of various government policies and programs in the social protection, education, health, and employment sectors during the pandemic.
SMERU officially launched the SMERU Learning Center, a learning platform for socioeconomic research that focuses on poverty and inequality issues.
2001–2009: Dr. Sudarno Sumarto
2009–2019: Dr. Asep Suryahadi
2019–present: Ir. Widjajanti Isdijoso, M.Ec.St.