How Oxfam and Save changed US aid on local ownership: nice case study in influencing

November 30, 2017
I do love it when NGOs are taken by surprise in a good way – getting results in unexpected ways, rather than grinding through the plan. A neat example came up at Oxfam’s recent Evidence for Influencing conference. Here’s what happened. Oxfam America and Save the Children wanted to persuade USAID to do more on ‘local ownership’ of aid. It’s

What does the rapidly changing face of UK and global aid look like, and what is at stake? 

November 29, 2017
Oxfam aid wonk Gideon Rabinowitz reads the tea leaves of the latest UK aid stats Anyone following aid discussions in recent years will have sensed the mood music changing. They have been increasingly dominated by an emphasis on economic development, the role of the private sector, securing results (including for taxpayers) and addressing donor strategic interests (e.g. in relation to

Winning Ugly and Learning from the Bad Guys: Discussing How Change Happens with the Greens

November 28, 2017
Had an HCH session with some extremely smart wonks at the Green Alliance last week. I gave my standard talk, focussing on a ‘Power and Systems Approach’. This argues that for activism to be more in line with messy, emergent realities, activists need to change their way of working to give greater weight to: Curiosity – Study history and context;

A wonderful book by Jean Dreze, India’s Orwell

November 27, 2017
Notes from my talk at last week’s launch of Jean Drèze’s new book, Sense and Solidarity. Has anyone written Jean Drèze’s biography? If not, why not? A fascinating figure, surrounded by myths and legends (did he really sleep rough in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the square next to LSE, when he was a lecturer there?). He’s a wonderful writer who reminds

Kevin Watkins on the power of stigma and shame as a driver of change

November 23, 2017
Kevin Watkins, a fellow Prof in Practice at the LSE, came along to talk to my students last week (review by Masters student Haisley Wert here). Kevin is a bit of a research and campaigning legend in the aid biz – the brains behind a lot of epic Oxfam campaigns on trade and debt in the early noughties, he went

What are the politics of our survival as a species? Introducing the Climate Change Trilemma

November 22, 2017
So a physicist, an anthropologist, and two political economists have lunch in the LSE canteen and start arguing about climate change….. I was (very notionally) the physicist; my other lunchtime companions were Robert Wade, Teddy Brett and Jason Hickel (the anthropologist). Jason was arguing for degrowth and reminded me of the excellent debate on this blog a couple of years ago

Do you have to be cold to be cool? Canada joins the Nordics as a world leader on rights.

November 21, 2017
I was in Canada last week, having a lot of fun on a speaking tour with Oxfam Canada, followed by a couple of days with Oxfam Quebec in Montreal. One of the striking impressions is how much Canada’s foreign policy rhetoric echoes that of the Nordics in its focus on rights (an even more striking impression was that minus 20

Dear readers, please tell us what you think about the blog (there’s prizes)

November 20, 2017
How time passes when you’re having fun, or at least shooting your mouth off. It has come to our attention that we haven’t asked your opinion on anything very much for over five years now (see here for summary of last survey in 2012). So some technologically gifted people in Oxfam have put together the reader survey. I would really appreciate you

To Uber or not to Uber? That is Your Question

November 16, 2017
OK, I’m probably going to regret this but… should I use Uber taxis? I got into a big argument about this in Canada last week, not that there was a uniform position – Ellie the Oxfam Canada campaigner sees Uber as the spawn of the devil, while Ifthia the fund raiser has an Uber-driver Dad. When I randomly asked a

What’s so bad with Business as Usual on Livelihoods? Impressions from Eastern Congo

November 15, 2017
Our country director in DRC, Jose Barahona (right), sent round some interesting impressions from a recent visit to the Eastern Congo. South Kivu in Eastern Congo is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Africa and I am convinced that one day this area will be one of the world’s top tourist destinations. The day DRC is calm and stable, the

The Great Leveller: A conversation with Walter Scheidel on Inequality and Apocalypse

November 14, 2017
When I visited Stanford recently at the invitation of Francis Fukuyama, I also dropped in on Walter Scheidel, an Austrian historian who has taken time off from his main interest (the Romans) to write a powerful, and pretty depressing, book on inequality. Like Fukuyama, Scheidel is a big brain who favours the grand narrative – his book is called ‘The

Sociology v Economics: handy translation guide

November 10, 2017
Some more academic humour to add to the recent ‘what researchers say v what they mean‘ post, (gets better as you go down the table) via Chris Blattman. From a 1990 ‘Economics to Sociology Phrasebook‘ by two baffled economics students. It shows its age, but wears well, which is as much as any of us can aspire to.