Its work has focused on regional "rebalancing" away from London towards the North, health, housing, community cohesion, employment and pay, and early intervention. It was founded in 1996 in memory of John Smith MP who was leader of the Labour Party until his death in 1994. The Smith Institute describes its purpose as pursuing "policies for a fairer society" and states that it aims to build on John Smith's passion for social justice.
The Institute's director is Paul Hackett, a former special adviser to John Prescott MP. It has had articles in the Observer on the regional divide. Its work with the Centre for Social Justice on early intervention has been widely covered.
While the Labour Party was in government, a number of the think tank's meetings were held at Number 11 Downing Street, and the organisation allegedly had close ties with Gordon Brown. Following a complaint from the right-wing media in 2001, the Smith Institute was the subject of an inquiry by the Charity Commission, which closed in 2002.
- "People - Smith Institute". Retrieved 9 April 2017.
- . London https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2010/may/23/northern-england-government-spending-cut. Missing or empty
- "UK must 'avert social collapse'". BBC News. 2008-09-14.
- Christopher Hope (2006-11-30). "Charity watchdog to check Brown think-tank". The Daily Telegraph.
- Christopher Hope and Toby Helm (2006-11-25). "Brown prepares team for takeover". The Daily Telegraph.