What Brits say v What they mean: a handy translation guide

January 17, 2019
The BBC was kind enough to link to one of my posts this weekend – cue big bump in traffic. Unsurprisingly, it was not some worthy discussion of adaptive management, or research for impact, but a funny: A handy guide for our fellow Europeans, and others trying to fathom weaselly Brit-speak, first published in 2011. Seems particularly relevant to the

Book Review: The Road to Somewhere, by David Goodhart

September 13, 2017
There was a moment a few years ago when I was walking through Brixton with my son, Calum. I was tediously droning on about how much I loved the cultural and ethnic kaleidoscope, compared to the plain vanilla places where I grew up. Calum suddenly turned on me – ‘you’re just a tourist; you visit on Saturdays. It’s different growing up

How bad is my filter bubble problem? Please help me find out

January 5, 2017
In an idle moment over the Christmas break, I decided to run a twitter poll to assess the extent of my filter bubble. For any of you who’ve been on a different planet for the last few months, that’s the social media phenomenon whereby you like/follow/read only those sources that broadly agree with you, creating an echo chamber that can

On theories of change, what are the differences between playing offence and defence?

December 13, 2016
Unsurprisingly, in this year of Brexit and US elections, I’ve been thinking about how to stop bad stuff happening. While they are doubtless desperately looking for silver linings in a year of defeats, progressive movements are likely to spend a good part of the next few years defending good things from political assault. So what is the same/different about defence

Only (re)Connect. The US elections, How Change Happens and where do we go from here?

November 11, 2016
This is just me indulging in a little personal therapy as I come to terms with this week’s political earthquake. If you want the official Oxfam response, we’re working on it, but you’ll have to wait (should be out before the 2020 elections). So this is just me. Is that clear? Good. Trexit? Brump? 2016 is proving to be one

What sort of trade campaigns do we need around Brexit?

August 18, 2016
Not all conference calls are as terrible as the one depicted in ‘a conference call in real life’. Had a really good one yesterday with Oxfam/Exfam trade wonks on the impact of Brexit on Britain’s trade relations. Here’s my take. Around the early 2000s, I spent about 7 years as a trade wonk, first at CAFOD and then at DFID. Highlights

NGOs face a slow-onset funding disaster – what can be done to avoid it?

July 13, 2016
Brexit is prompting a lot of discussion within the UK’s aid community right now. But while the focus is understandably on EC funding and exchange rates, there’s a less visible and potentially more dangerous funding threat to deal with, argues Michael O’Donnell of Bond (the network of UK development NGOs). Right now, NGO staff focused on quality and effectiveness need

What’s the likely impact of Brexit on development, aid and Oxfam? Any opportunities amid the gloom?

June 30, 2016
Following on Tuesday’s retrospective ‘how did this happen?’ piece, some thoughts on the future, starting wide (development in general) then narrowing down to the aid business, and all the way to Oxfam/INGOs. All highly tentative, subject to correction etc in the coming days. One big assumption: I’m assuming that Brexit actually goes ahead. And one pleasant surprise – there are

What does ‘How Change Happens’ thinking tell us about Brexit?

June 28, 2016
I was in Lisbon running a ‘How Change Happens’ summer school when the Brexit news came in, so I thought I’d apply an HCH analysis to a seismic event. I’m not an expert on UK politics, so this is bound to be pretty uninformed compared to the avalanche of post mortems in the press, but let’s see where it goes. First