The Asia Foundation supports five Policy Research Institutes for institutional and technical research capacity development. The Asia Foundation’s overall approach to providing core funding to partners includes:

  • Demand driven approach to capacity development support
  • Total organizational approach: technical, organizational and policy engagement capabilities
  • Sharing and learning across program partners
  • Focus on organizational change and transformation
  • Sustainability of core funding model for partners

Under Ponlok Chomnes, core partners have an opportunity to receive “core funding” that will allow them to determine their research and capacity development agenda. In addition, partners will have access to a wider network of knowledge ecosystem both in Cambodia and regionally. Partners will be able to strengthen existing and build new network through Ponlok Chomnes convening efforts, including National Policy Forums and Policy Talks. Through these mechanisms, partners will have more opportunity to interact with policy makers at both the national and sub-national level.

The Asia Foundation will apply a “Critical Friend Mentorship” approach. Under this approach, our relationship with partners will go beyond a transactional and hierarchical relationship between grantor and grantee. The Asia Foundation essentially takes on the role of a friend or mentor who can be tapped for resource support and guidance. The Asia Foundation is intensive engagement with partners is crucial to making core funding work, and our program officers for this program are tasked to be out in the field as much as possible supporting partners to understand the program and develop suitable activities.

The five Policy Research Institutes have been identified through Expression of Interest (EOI) for core partners process. They include:


The COVID-19 crisis has made the task of developing highly effective public policies and government programs even more important than ever. Timely data, evidence and analysis are critical in this situation. They can potentially enable policy makers and development partners to make better decisions and achieve better outcomes — on health security, social stability and inclusion, and economic resilience. The Royal Government of Cambodia has demonstrated an openness to evidence-informed approaches during the pandemic, a trend that the Ponlok Chomnes: Data and Dialogue for Development in Cambodia program aims to support.

Ponlok Chomnes — Khmer for ‘sprouting knowledge’ — is a three-year program (2019 – 2022) supported by the Australian Government and implemented by The Asia Foundation. The program aims to strengthen the capacity of knowledge sector institutions, including independent think tanks, to undertake quality research that informs public policy analysis and dialogue in Cambodia. Since the pandemic, Ponlok Chomnes has taken immediate action by pivoting current programing activities in response to this quickly evolving situation.

The Ponlok Chomnes program’s COVID-19 pivot directly supports Australia’s Partnerships for Recovery Strategy. This strategy was developed in light of the pandemic’s profound impacts on Australia’s neighbourhood — the Indo-Pacific region — in particular Pacific Island Countries, Timor-Leste and Southeast Asia. How these neighbouring countries emerge from the crisis will potentially influence Australia’s economic and strategic context for decades to come. In this context, Australia is committed to working hard with Cambodia to tackle the crisis together. Australia has already moved quickly to support Cambodia, including by pivoting existing development programs to respond to the health security, stability and inclusion, and economic impacts of COVID-19.

For further information, please click the Ponlok Chomnes Program’s COVID-19 Pivot: Evidence-Informed Policy for Effective Health, Social and Economic Recovery in Cambodia.