It is commonly argued that ‘institutions matter’ for growth and poverty reduction. While recognising the importance of institutions, it is necessary to go ‘beyond institutions’ in understanding the factors that promote growth and poverty reduction. This paper draws on the research findings of the IPPG Research Consortium (Improving Institutions for Pro-Poor Growth), some of which are included in this issue, to make the following arguments. We argue, first, that the ways in which economic, political and social institutions interact are crucial in shaping pro-poor development outcomes. Secondly, the establishment of effective institutions also requires the building and strengthening of effective social, political and economic organizations, across sectors and issue areas, which can push for, negotiate, implement and monitor locally appropriate and legitimate institutional arrangements if the aim of poverty reduction is to have sustained traction as a policy goal. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.