how change happens

What happens when historians and campaigners spend a day together discussing how change happens?

Duncan Green - June 9, 2015

Part of the feedback on last month’s post calling for a ‘lessons of history’ programme was, inevitably, that someone is already doing it. So last week I headed off to Kings College, London for a mind expanding conference on ‘Why Change Happens: What we Can Learn from the Past’. The organizers were the History and Policy network and Friends of the Earth, as part of …

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14 ways for aid agencies to better promote active citizenship

Duncan Green - January 21, 2015

As you may have noticed, I’ve been writing a series of 10 case studies of Oxfam’s work in promoting ‘active citizenship’, plus a synthesis paper. They cover everything from global campaigns to promoting women’s leadership to labour rights. They are now all finished and up on the website. Phew. Here’s the accompanying blog which summarizes the findings of the exercise (with links to all the …

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9 Ways to get northern constituencies involved in changing the world: useful typology

Duncan Green - October 10, 2014

Like everyone else, if Buzzfeed is any guide, I love a good list. I’m also increasingly obsessed with theories of change. So imagine my joy when I read Exfamer May Miller-Dawkins’ paper ‘9 Ways to Change the World’, which offers not one, but two lists. The paper is an attempt to come up with a typology of the ways organizations try to engage northern constituencies on …

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Reformers v lobbyists: where have we got to on tackling corporate tax dodging?

Duncan Green - May 9, 2014

The rhythm of NGO advocacy and campaigning sometimes makes it particularly hard to work on complicated issues, involving drawn-out negotiations where bad guys have more resources and staying power than we do. Campaigns on trade, climate change, debt relief etc often follow a similar trajectory – a big NGO splash as a new issue breaks, then activists realize they need to go back to school …

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What’s missing from the ‘Active Citizens + Effective States’ formula in From Poverty to Power?

Duncan Green - March 3, 2014

Oh dear. Be careful what you wish for. When I wrote From Poverty to Power (the book, not the blog), we came up with a nice subtitle that seemed to capture a common thread linking the very diverse topics covered in the book – ‘How Active Citizens and Effective States can Change the World.’ But now I’m starting to regret it. At the time (the …

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What questions help us understand how change happens?

admin - April 8, 2013

How do we analyse the stories of change that we all use in development? Such stories shape narratives, illustrate approaches and enrich our understanding of how change happens. Regular readers of this blog will know that this is a running theme, but I’m now about to step it up, working with colleagues across Oxfam and beyond to collect and use case studies of change to …

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From superstorm Sandy to climate solidarity: How extreme weather can unlock climate action

admin - November 2, 2012

From a battered New York, Oxfam climate change policy adviser Tim Gore (right) considers the wider impact of major ‘weather events’ on the climate change debate I live in New York, half a block outside Evacuation Zone A on the East side of Manhattan. My partner and I, like many others, had our quick-run bags packed as the power went off on Monday evening (which …

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What does Tolstoy's War and Peace teach us about Causation, Complexity and Theories of Change?

admin - October 5, 2012

Just finished reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace, an amazing work, which quite possibly justifies the blurb’s ‘greatest novel in any language’ claim (who on earth decides these things and how?). I read it 30 years ago, but to be honest, I’m not sure I understood much of it then. Tolstoy manages to combine the enthralling human saga of Russia’s experience of invasion by France under …

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Can theories of change help researchers (or their funders) have more impact?

admin - August 3, 2012

Got dragged into DFID this week for yet another session on theories of change. This one was organized by the DFID-funded Research for Development (R4D) project (sorry, ‘portal’). A lot of my previous comments on such sessions apply – in DFID the theories of change agenda seems rather dominated by evaluation and planning (‘logframes on steroids’), whereas in Oxfam, it is mainly used to sharpen …

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How should our influencing strategy vary with the kind of state we're working in?

admin - June 27, 2012

Despite the deeply unimpressive response to my last attempt (on top killer facts – not too late to chip in), I’m willing to give you another chance to provide us with unpaid consultancy crowdsource some useful ideas. This time it is helping us think through how an INGO’s influencing strategy at national level (whether through advocacy, programming or both combined) needs to adapt to the institutional …

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