Topic: NGOs

Sensibilist or Swivel Eyed? Weighing the arguments for greater radicalism in NGO advocacy

At what point does an advocacy NGO cease being ‘ahead of the curve’, ‘visionary’ etc (choose your own cliché) and instead become simply bonkers, a prophet ranting in a wilderness uninhabited by anyone with a smidgeon of decision-making power? This subject kept cropping up at an Oxfam internal discussion the other day. Unfortunately, I framed […]

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The great Microfinance debate: Comments on the Comments, some loose ends and some new info

Back from Bangladesh and still processing both the real life and blog discussions on microfinance institutions (MFIs), following last week’s post and the good debate in the comments. A few final (probably…) observations: Microcredit v Microfinance: point taken. A lot of the doubts and criticisms apply to microcredit (loans), not to the wider range of […]

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Microfinance again – the views of some Bangladeshi farmers

I spent some time yesterday with a group of 20 Bangladeshi small farmers (13 men, 7 women) linked to a sustainable agriculture NGO, Unnayan Dhara (sorry, they don’t yet have a website). Among other things (climate change, access to markets etc) I asked them about microfinance, given my post on Wednesday and the subsequent discussion […]

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What can you do if teachers don't show up?

There has been significant progress in recent years in getting kids into school, but what’s the point if the teachers don’t show up for work? In general, the poorer the country, the higher the level of absenteeism. The explanations are both obvious (wages are so low, teachers need to look for second jobs, or funnel […]

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The backlash against microfinance

The intellectual battlefield of development is littered with magic bullets. New ideas or technologies such as the internet or mobile phones are picked up, promoted as panaceas that will end poverty and transform societies, and then rapidly cut down to size by scrutiny and research. That process seems to be well under way on microfinance. […]

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The Global Campaign for Education – a model of international activism

‘Global campaigning’ is sometimes criticised for being driven by northern agendas. As one frustrated Indian activist interviewed in the paper discussed here asked ‘what is a global campaign? Does it mean you get a lot of people together in UK, have a Bono concert and ask us here in India to get together and shout? […]

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What does the British Conservative Party think about development?

This week I attended the launch of ‘One World Conservatism’, a ‘Green Paper’ (i.e. discussion document) in which the Conservative Party (who if you believe the opinion polls, are highly likely to take over from Gordon Brown’s Labour at the next election, due before next June) set out its thinking on international development. The Green […]

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Is the organic movement missing a big opportunity on climate change?

Oh dear, not only has climate change turned me into a reluctant green, but now I’m having to rethink my attitudes to organic farming. This is all the fault of a conversation with Peter Melchett and Ken Hayes from the Soil Association, who are both fervent advocates of organic agriculture (which Peter puts into practice on […]

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How do you get a job in a development NGO (starting with one in my team)?

I’m prompted to post this partly because there’s a job coming up in my team at Oxfam. We’re looking for a research methods adviser to build the skills of our staff around the world who commission and/or conduct smart research to inform Oxfam’s programmes and advocacy. If you’re interested, read more here, and you need […]

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Plant clinics – or why sometimes development looks easy and obvious

Bumped into an ‘agricultural anthropologist’, Jeff Bentley, who works in Cochabamba, Bolivia and was intrigued by his work promoting ‘plant clinics’, where farmers bring in examples of sick plants and get a diagnosis and prescription in a system modelled on human healthcare (they even have a two tier structure of General Practitioners as first point […]

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Seizing the Moment: A Successful Campaign on Domestic Violence in Malawi

Here’s an example of successful advocacy at national level, which is becoming an increasingly important part of Oxfam’s work. In 2005, Oxfam’s Malawi programme along with its partners mounted a campaign to eliminate gender based violence which led to the passing of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Bill in Parliament in April 2006.  How did it […]

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Trade v climate change: what should developing countries be asked to do?

Last week, Oxfam published its proposals on how the burden of reducing carbon emissions should be shared between countries, both rich and poor. What struck me was the contrast with the stance Oxfam and other NGOs have taken in their advocacy on trade at the WTO and numerous other trade agreements. There, they have focused […]

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