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When democracies die, they die quietly… but what’s the role of Civil Society?

September 6, 2019
Save the Children’s José Manuel Roche has a book he wants you to read. So, it turns out that nowadays democracy seldom dies through violent coup d’état. More commonly (and insidiously), democracy slides gradually into authoritarianism. By the same token, democracy survives when democratic leaders fight for it. This is part of the main thesis behind the insightful book How

How should INGOs respond to growing nationalism in the UK?

June 6, 2019
Guest post from Matthew Spencer, (@Spencerthink) Oxfam’s Director of Campaigns, Policy & Influencing Kirsty McNeill, my counterpart from Save the Children UK, asked me this question last year and it’s been troubling me ever since. I had a vague answer, but wasn’t entirely convinced. We have no mandate to take sides on Brexit, but I reasoned that INGO’s enabling the

Is Recognition the missing piece of politics? A conversation with Francis Fukuyama

November 9, 2017
Getting Francis Fukuyama to endorse How Change Happens was one of the high points of publication – he’s been a hero of mine ever since I read (and reviewed) his magisterial history of the state (right). Last week I finally got to meet him, when I took up an invitation to speak to students and faculty at his Center for Democracy,

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

Can Hegel (and Geoff Mulgan) chart a new progressive agenda?

May 25, 2017
Geoff Mulgan is one of the UK’s most original thinkers about the future of society. He set up the thinktank Demos, advised the early Blair government, and now runs NESTA (an ‘innovation foundation). According to Wikipedia he even trained as a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka. I recently came across his essay on a progressive response to Brexit, Trump etc

Pragmatism and its discontents: Brian Levy’s brilliant review essay on How Change Happens

April 26, 2017
Brian Levy, governance guru and author of Working with the Grain, recently published this magisterial essay on his blog. Nominally a review of How Change Happens (chuffed, naturally), it goes way beyond to provide a powerful critique of the aid/development/progressive consensus in light of the events of the last year. Enjoy. At times in the last few years”, writes Duncan Green in his

What do aid agencies need to do to get serious on changing social norms?

March 24, 2017
Earlier this week I spent a day with Oxfam’s biggest cheeses, discussing how we should react to the rising tide of nationalism and populism (if you think that’s a Northern concern, take a look at what is going on in India or the Philippines). One of the themes that emerged in the discussions was how to engage with social norms

On Populism, Nationalism, Babies and Bathwater

March 23, 2017
A couple of Oxfamers were over from the US recently so ODI kindly pulled together a seriously stimulating conversation about life, theuniverse and everything. More specifically, how should ‘we’ – the aid community broadly defined – respond to the rising tide of nationalism, populism, and attacks on aid. It was Chatham House rules, so I’ve already told you too much,