how change happens

How Oxfam and Save changed US aid on local ownership: nice case study in influencing

Duncan Green - November 30, 2017

I do love it when NGOs are taken by surprise in a good way – getting results in unexpected ways, rather than grinding through the plan. A neat example came up at Oxfam’s recent Evidence for Influencing conference. Here’s what happened. Oxfam America and Save the Children wanted to persuade USAID to do more on ‘local ownership’ of aid. It’s a bipartisan issue in the …

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Winning Ugly and Learning from the Bad Guys: Discussing How Change Happens with the Greens

Duncan Green - November 28, 2017

Had an HCH session with some extremely smart wonks at the Green Alliance last week. I gave my standard talk, focussing on a ‘Power and Systems Approach’. This argues that for activism to be more in line with messy, emergent realities, activists need to change their way of working to give greater weight to: Curiosity – Study history and context; ‘learn to dance with the …

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Kevin Watkins on the power of stigma and shame as a driver of change

Duncan Green - November 23, 2017

Kevin Watkins, a fellow Prof in Practice at the LSE, came along to talk to my students last week (review by Masters student Haisley Wert here). Kevin is a bit of a research and campaigning legend in the aid biz – the brains behind a lot of epic Oxfam campaigns on trade and debt in the early noughties, he went on to write some of …

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What are the politics of our survival as a species? Introducing the Climate Change Trilemma

Duncan Green - November 22, 2017

So a physicist, an anthropologist, and two political economists have lunch in the LSE canteen and start arguing about climate change….. I was (very notionally) the physicist; my other lunchtime companions were Robert Wade, Teddy Brett and Jason Hickel (the anthropologist). Jason was arguing for degrowth and reminded me of the excellent debate on this blog a couple of years ago between Kate Raworth and …

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The Great Leveller: A conversation with Walter Scheidel on Inequality and Apocalypse

Duncan Green - November 14, 2017

When I visited Stanford recently at the invitation of Francis Fukuyama, I also dropped in on Walter Scheidel, an Austrian historian who has taken time off from his main interest (the Romans) to write a powerful, and pretty depressing, book on inequality. Like Fukuyama, Scheidel is a big brain who favours the grand narrative – his book is called ‘The Great Leveller: Violence and the …

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How Change Happens one year on – the stats, the suffering and the power of Open Access

Duncan Green - October 27, 2017

It’s a year to the day since How Change Happens was published (I made the mistake of putting ‘narcissistic peak’ in my diary, and my wife Cathy saw it – never heard the end of it). Here’s what’s happened since. First the stats: the headline figure is that in the first year, the book has had approximately 40,000 readers. Of these roughly 6,000 bought paper …

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Are grassroots faith organizations better at advocacy/making change happen?

Duncan Green - September 28, 2017

As part of thinking about how power operates in fragile/conflict states (for the LSE’s new Centre for Public Authority in International Development, CPAID), I’m doing a bit more reading around the role of different kinds of ‘non state actors’. One of the most influential in many fragile/conflict settings are faith organizations, so I finally got round to reading ‘Bridging the Gap: The role of local …

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Book Review: The Aid Lab: Understanding Bangladesh’s Unexpected Success, by Naomi Hossain

Duncan Green - September 19, 2017

Over the summer I read a few absolutely brilliant books – hence the spate of book reviews. This week I will cover two new studies on development’s biggest recent success stories – China, but first Bangladesh. How did Bangladesh go from being a ‘basket case’ (though ‘not necessarily our basket case’ – Henry Kissinger, 1971) to a development success story, claimed by numerous would-be fathers …

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Complexity v Simplicity: the challenge for Campaigners and Reformers

Duncan Green - September 14, 2017

Had a few thought-provoking conversations on this last week. I increasingly see most problems (social, political, economic) as complex, i.e. arising from multiple causes in interconnected systems, often highly dependent on the specific context and history of any given place/population. My campaigner friends generally hate such talk, because their gut feeling is that it makes taking action to change the world much more difficult. We …

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

Duncan Green - 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 themselves and their neighbours, what …

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