how change happens

Why is life in fragile/conflict states not more ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’? New research programme on ‘Public Authority’

Duncan Green - May 24, 2017

Thomas Hobbes argued that states are essential to guarantee security. In their absence there would be a ‘war of all against all’ in which life would be ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’. But in most fragile and conflict affected areas, that degree of bloodbath is strikingly absent – individuals, families and communities find ways to survive and resolve disputes in ways that stop short …

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Draft Paper on Adaptive Management in Oxfam – all comments welcome

Duncan Green - May 23, 2017

With a few important exceptions, large international NGOs have been pretty absent from the global conversation about ‘Doing Development Differently’, but are they doing it anyway and just skipping the meetings? To find out, a group of LSE Masters Students analysed a bunch of case studies of Oxfam programmes claiming to pursue ‘adaptive management’ approaches. Their report is so interesting that we want to publish …

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Street Spirit, an anthology of protest that both moved me to tears and really bugged me

Duncan Green - May 19, 2017

Street Spirit: the Power of Protest and Mischief, by Steve Crawshaw is a book that left me deeply confused. As I read it on a recent train ride, I experienced an alarming level of cognitive dissonance. The uplifting stories of resistance, courage, uprising, revolution etc moved me to tears (something I can best describe as ‘political crying’ – awkward in public places). At the same …

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Why Faith-Based Organizations are particularly well suited to ‘Doing Development Differently’

Duncan Green - May 18, 2017

Last week, I went in to talk How Change Happens with a bunch of CEOs and other senior staff from major Catholic aid agencies, including CAFOD, the first development outfit foolish enough to give me a job back in the 90s. We covered a lot of the standard ground – the results agenda, private sector approaches to innovation, the future (if any) of traditional northern/international …

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Why rethinking how we work on market systems and the private sector is really hard

Duncan Green - May 17, 2017

Whatever your ideological biases about ‘the private sector’ (often weirdly conflated with transnational corporations in NGO-land), markets really matter to poor people (feeding families, earning a living, that kind of thing).  But ‘making markets work for the poor’ turns out to be really difficult and, just as with attempts to tackle corruption or improve institutions, there is a rethink going on in the aid business. …

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I’m teaching a two week course on Making Change Happen, Cape Town, July. Interested?

Duncan Green - May 13, 2017

Quick heads up. I’m teaching a two week ‘summer school’ (actually more of a winter school) on How Change Happens at the University of Cape Town from 17-28th July. Details and registration here. The course will combine a basic intro to the themes of the book with lots of engagement with Cape Town based activists (local Oxfam stars Allan Moolman and Ronald Wesso are helping …

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Making Change in Closed Political Environments – what works?

Duncan Green - May 12, 2017

I’m a big fan of the International Budget Partnership, which manages both to get down and dirty in supporting national campaigns and movements for budget transparency, and to step back and spot the broader patterns of politics and change. Over the next few months I’m going to be helping them think through their strategy so I’ve been catching up a few recent research papers. First …

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Why election politics don’t work as well for the environment as they do for international development

Duncan Green - May 11, 2017

Guest post from Matthew Spencer, who crossed over from the environment sector recently to become Oxfam’s Director of Campaigns and Policy  Before the end of the first week of the UK election campaign, to widespread surprise, Theresa May agreed to the development sector’s main demand to maintain our 0.7% overseas aid commitment. In contrast, the following week the government had to be forced to publish …

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What is new/the same about the world’s new civic activist movements?

Duncan Green - May 10, 2017

Bumped into Tom Carothers in the DFID foyer the other day, and he handed me a copy of a fascinating new Carnegie Endowment Report, Global Civic Activism in Flux. Late last year, Carnegie set up a Civic Activism Network that brought together 8 national experts on new forms of citizen activism in Brazil, Egypt, India, Kenya, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, and Ukraine, who each contributed chapters. …

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Blockchain for Development: A Handy Bluffers’ Guide

Duncan Green - May 9, 2017

Top tip: if you’re in a meeting discussing anything to do with finance, at some point look wise and say ‘you do realize, blockchain is likely to change everything.’ Of course, there is always a terrifying chance that someone will ask what you actually mean. Worry not, because IDS has produced a handy bluffer’s guide to help you respond. Blockchain for Development – Hope or …

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