The current system of multilateralism, borne out of circumstances after the Second World War, is no longer fit for purpose today. How should this system be reinvented, and what types of research can contribute to its reform? First, it is not enough to tell international organizations that they ought to do more of the same good things such as transparency and engagement; rather, we need contextually grounded and publicly engaged research that helps practitioners dispel tropes and elevate public discourse in a deeply politicized world. Second, being public in nature, international organizations cannot be expected to operate like private firms. Any prescription must take into account their political imperatives. Publicly engaged research on multilateralism should move in three directions: (a) take US-China great power competition as a necessary starting point; (b) support ethnographic and empirical research that sheds light on internal operations, political dynamics, and constraints within international organizations; (c) promote dialogues between academics and practitioners, as this special collection has done.
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