Topic: Politics

How can Activists get better at harnessing Narratives for social change?

Working in a global organization like Oxfam means spending a lot of time on conference calls, with colleagues scattered across the globe. They can be frustrating – dodgy connections, people fading in and out, speaking too fast, or forgetting to put their phones on mute (especially if they are nipping in to the restroom – […]

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Working With/Against the Grain, the case for Toolkits, and the future of Thinking and Working Politically

Second instalment of my download from an intense day spent last week with the Thinking and Working Politically Community of Practice (first instalment here).   Working With or Against the Grain? In a way, this is a reworking of the reformist v radical divide. Should TWP focus on understanding local institutions and find ways to […]

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Thinking and Working Politically – why the unexpected success?

Spent a fizzy day with the Thinking and Working Politically crew last week, taking stock on its (surprising?) success over the last 5 years (first sighting, November 2013 and this meeting in Delhi), and pondering next steps. Too much to say for a single post, so this will be spread over the next two days. […]

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Book Review: Radical Help, by Hilary Cottam

Every now and then a conversation, paper or book reminds me that activists in the UK are out there in their  thousands, often working and thinking along parallel lines to their counterparts in Oxfam and around the world. I just finished Radical Help, a wonderful book by Hilary Cottam, for which the tl;dr summary could […]

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Can new tech revive the world’s trade unions?

The Economist never ceases to surprise and inform. This week’s issue carries an excellent special report on ‘trade unions and technology’. Here’s an edited extract:   ‘Support for organised labour is rising again (see chart). And technology may again play a central role in helping a revival—particularly in America, where activists are trying inventive new ways to organise […]

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What can we learn from campaigns run by the world’s children and young people?

Save the Children’s Patrick Watt reports back from some INGO soul searching on ‘Engaging a New Generation’ There’s nothing new about children and youth being involved in movements for change, from the anti-apartheid cause in South Africa, to the earlier and more hopeful chapters of the Arab Spring. But what feels different now is that […]

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Old Wine in New Bottles? 6 ways to tell if a programme is really ‘doing development differently’

Guest post from some of the top exponents of adaptive management/doing development differently These days it seems that everyone in the aid sector is doing development differently – presenting themselves as politically smart, locally led, flexible and adaptive. But is it true?  How much of this is “old wine in new bottles” – the language […]

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The Rise of Social Protection, the art of Paradigm Maintenance, and a disagreement with the World Bank

Spent a mind-stretching day last week with a bunch of social protection experts from the LSE, IMF and assorted other bodies. Social Protection includes emergency relief, permanent mechanisms such as pensions and cash transfers, and ‘social insurance’ based on people’s personal contributions. LSE boss Minouche Shafik set the scene really well: ‘The failure of safety […]

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Evil Donors and ‘The Literature’: Is there a problem with the way academics write about aid?

Since I dipped my toe in the waters of academia, I’ve been struck by two things: firstly, the number of my new colleagues (especially the political scientists and anthropologists) who appear convinced that aid is essentially evil – a neo-imperialist plot to defend the status quo. Secondly the way people use the phrase ‘The Literature’, […]

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Aid’s fragile state problem – why is it so hard to even think about?

I’ve spotted a recurring problem with the way the aid sector talks about fragile and conflict-affected states (FCAS). FCAS are characterized by states that are either absent or predatory – in terms of development, governments and officials are as likely to be part of the problem as part of the solution. But the aid sector, […]

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Podcast: How China Escaped the Poverty Trap, with Yuen Yuen Ang

Finally managed to persuade Yuen Yuen Ang, author of one of my favourite books from last year (reviewed here and discussion of bicultural authors like Yuen Yuen here), to come to LSE, where she gave a barnstorming lecture on the book and its wider implications. The previous evening I managed to catch up with her […]

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What is civil society for? Reflection from one of Tanzania’s leading CSO thinkers

A recent civil society and government jamboree in Tanzania prompted some interesting reflections from Aidan Eyakuze, Executive Director of Twaweza. Who needs civil society organizations (CSOs)? If government does its job well, responding to citizens’ needs, delivering good quality services, safe communities and a booming economy, then what is the purpose of the diverse range of […]

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