As a co-founder Eqbal Ahmad not only stood at the cradle of the Transnational Institute (TNI), he also raised and nurtured the Institute during its early years.
Early 1973, he was commissioned on a five week trip throughout Europe during which he discussed the idea for the Institute with over 200 individuals representing a wide political and intellectual spectrum. He arrived in an empty building as TNI's first Director, but succeeded in turning it into a center bursting of activity. He awarded Fellowships to individuals from all around the world to do their research and jointly developing a common framework. In doing so, he laid the groundwork for an international network of scholar-activists committed to social change, which still typifies TNI to this very day. He initiated the organisation of TNI's first major conference in 1974, on Chile after the overthrown of the Allende government. He established close working relationships with a wide range of progressive organisations, for instance with Country Information Services (CIS), the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) and the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA). In 1975, he stepped down as Director to dedicate his time to his own work, but remained involved in TNI, as a Fellow, later as an Advisor and regular visitor.
The TNI also co-sponsored and participated in partnership with the Dutch Anti Apartheid Movement, the Rhodesia Sanctions Seminar in Amsterdam, 1974