How to Analyse stories of Change: could you help sharpen up these guidelines?

July 30, 2019

     By Duncan Green     

This week, I’ll be highlighting some of the great work on activism and change from my LSE students. First up, could you comment on this draft paper please? Explanation below:

Case studies are a crucial means of understanding how the world changes and informing our work as activists. Simplistic case studies reduce complex realities to linear morality tales, while useful lessons can be lost in the caveats and language of impenetrable academic treatises.

Processes of change

So I’ve drafted these research guidelines for Oxfam, suggesting a ‘good enough’ approach to researching and communicating case studies in a way that captures the full depth of actors, power and processes involved. And as usual, I’m looking to FP2P readers to provide some unpaid consultancy helpful advice on the draft (here). Either leave comments on the blog, or email me at dgreen[at]

The guidelines set out some ideas and tools for analysing and explaining processes of change at different levels. They explain how to analyse the context of change (see graphic), often taking place in complex systems; the different kinds of formal and informal power involved in change processes, and how to understand the interaction of the different players. They explore the dynamics of how change unfolds over time.

The ideas are drawn from Oxfam’s experience, two of my books (From Poverty to Power and How Change Happens) and most recently, my LSE Masters course on ‘Advocacy, Campaigning and Grassroots Activism’, for which groups of students write an assignment analysing a past episode of change of their choosing.

LSE course

To illustrate how they go about this, here are three of the best from this year’s cohort, covering some very different change processes

Germany’s Nuclear Phase Out: How a decades-long advocacy campaign led to change in just over 100 days by Leonie Dudda, Krista Kartson and Niklas Alexander Krakau

  • What to look out for in this case study: excellent power analysis, eg on how and why Siemens moved from a blocker to a supporter of de-nuclearization

A Study of Change on Iceland’s high profile Palm Oil Pledge (the supermarket, not the country) by Mason Gersh, Kate McCoshan, Nicole Shermer and Emma Simons.

  • What to look out for in this case study: the interaction between individual corporate leaders in a privately owned company and wider factors such as shifting views on environmental responsibility and public campaigns by NGOs.

Repealing the Eighth: the 2018 Irish referendum on reproductive rights, by Eloise O’CarrollEric Frasco, Tornike Kusiani and Rachel Speechley 

  • What to look out for in this case study: The strategies used by the campaign to win over ‘unusual suspects’ as allies and the importance of critical junctures

Do try and find time to at least skim these – my Oxfam colleagues were blown away by their quality!

And here’s the Greenpeace video that kick-started the Iceland process.

July 30, 2019
Duncan Green