What have we learned about Empowerment and Accountability in fragile/violent places?

January 25, 2019
For the past few years I’ve been one of Oxfam’s researchers in the Action for Empowerment and Accountability programme, studying how E&A function in fragile, conflict and violence-affected settings (FCVAS) – a more exact category than ‘Fragile/Conflict States’, which recognizes that it’s not always whole countries that are fragile/violent. This week we had a brainstorm to try and distil the

What restrains extreme violence – Culture or the Law?

August 2, 2018
Ed Cairns on how advocates of international humanitarian law have started getting excited about culture and norms Do we need to get used to war? That’s the frightening question from the 2018 Armed Conflict Survey, from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), launched with the blunt message that ‘peace processes are stalling… the number of armed groups is rising,’

Tackling poverty and injustice by influencing behaviours and practices: what works?

January 25, 2018
Ruth Mayne, Oxfam’s senior researcher on influencing, introduces a new discussion paper on behaviour and practice change, written with Melanie Kesmaecker-Wissing, Lucy Knight and Jola Miziniak. This was first posted on Oxfam’s Views and Voices site. Behaviour change strategies can play a vital role in combating poverty, injustice and environmental problems, whether by helping end gender-based violence, improving health and hygiene behaviours,

Book Review: Norms in the Wild: How to Diagnose, Measure, and Change Social Norms, by Cristina Bicchieri

September 7, 2017
Alice Evans was raving about this book on twitter, so I scrounged a review copy and read it on holiday (that’s just how I roll). Verdict? A useful resource on an incredibly important topic (see my previous blogs), but sorry Alice, no cigar. Why important? Because norms are the neglected heart of development and social change – how people see

How could a ‘life cycle analysis’ help aid organizations engage better with the public?

April 24, 2017
Following on the post (and great comments) about whether Oxfam should get serious on changing social norms, I’ve been thinking about a ‘life cycle analysis’ approach to INGOs’ engagement with the public. The starting point is that at different ages, people have different assets and constraints (eg disposable time, cash, openness to new ideas). Obviously, one shouldn’t generalize – not

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

How do we encourage innovation in markets? What can systems thinking add?

February 22, 2017
Update: check out the comments on this post – v interesting Earlier this month I spent a fun 3 days at a seminar discussing Market Systems Innovation. No really. I discovered a community of very smart people working on markets, who seem to be on a similar journey to the people working on governance and institutions, who I have spent

How Soap Operas and cable TV promote women’s rights and family planning

October 21, 2014
Taking a break from the How Change Happens book this week to head off to Harvard for a Matt Andrews/ODI seminar on ‘Doing Development Differently’ + a day at Oxfam America on Friday. Will report back, I’m sure. Meanwhile, I’ve just finished the draft chapter on the power of social norms, and how they change (and can be changed). ODI