Closing Civic Space: Trends, Drivers and what Donors can do about it

February 14, 2019
My reading pile is out of control, but I finally caught up with a useful May 2018 overview from the always excellent International Center for Not-for-Profit Law. Nothing life-changing, but a clear and concise summary of the origins of the problem and possible responses, based on some 50 contributions to a consultation by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

How can Activists get better at harnessing Narratives for social change?

November 29, 2018
Working in a global organization like Oxfam means spending a lot of time on conference calls, with colleagues scattered across the globe. They can be frustrating – dodgy connections, people fading in and out, speaking too fast, or forgetting to put their phones on mute (especially if they are nipping in to the restroom – yes it happens….). People concerned

Is Something Good about to happen in Mexico?

October 18, 2018
First of two reflections on last week’s visit to Mexico. Omar Cabezas’ wonderful account of the Sandinista Revolution, Fire from the Mountain, ends with the victorious guerrillas arriving in Managua’s main square, where wild celebrations break out at the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship. On the margins of the fiesta, a group of comandantes gather and look at each other. 

Here’s what we know about closing civic space – what other research would you suggest?

September 18, 2018
I head off to the Institute of Development Studies today to take stock on our joint ‘Action for Empowerment and Accountability’ research programme. One of the main discussions will be on a research agenda on ‘closing civic space’, so this blog sets out what we know of the research to date, and asks you for further suggestions. The best place

How can Civil Society respond to government crackdowns around the world? New Oxfam paper (and hello to Oxfam GB’s new boss)

September 12, 2018
Oxfam GB announced yesterday that Danny Sriskandarajah (right) will be its new boss. V exciting, and not just because he’s a mate. He comes to us from Civicus, the global alliance of civil society organizations. Here he is writing on this blog last year on the role of INGOs, if any, in defending civil society space. This is gonna be fun.

What is really going on within ‘shrinking civil society space’ and how should international actors respond?

June 28, 2017
Good conversation (Chatham House Rule) last week on the global crackdown on civil society organizations (CSOs) and what to do about it. I was expecting a fairly standard ‘it’s all terrible; international NGOs must take action, speak truth to power etc’ discussion, but it was actually much more interesting and nuanced than that. While it is undoubtedly true, and horrible,

A successful project to wean southern civil society organizations off aid

August 10, 2016
I’ve previously lamented the aid industry’s lack of interest in building up the domestic fundraising capacity of local organizations and suggested we need a ‘Fundraisers Without Borders’. Turns out something along those lines is already happening. A note in a recent edition of Development in Practice by Robert Wiggers of the Dutch Wild Geese Foundation (WGF) describes its Action for

Civil Society and the dangers of Monoculture: smart new primer from Mike Edwards

January 15, 2015
Mike Edwards has just written a 3rd edition of his book ‘Civil Society’. It’s a 130 page primer, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy reading. I found some of the conceptual stuff on different understandings of civil society pretty hard going, but was repaid with some really interesting and innovative systems thinking, leading to what I think are some novel

Making a difference in Indonesian cities – new research on NGO advocacy

August 12, 2011