What do, closed door talks with civil servants about climate change, street theatre about the impacts of domestic violence, and anti-tax haven marches have in common? Answer: They’re all about influencing for a fairer, safer, greener world. Sally Golding and Ruth Mayne introduce the what, how and why of ‘influencing’ in the first of a new series of blog posts.
Over the coming weeks and months we will be exploring the intriguing world of influencing: what it is and how it works, through the learning, insights and challenges of Oxfam, partners, other organisations, and researchers.
Influencing is not an end in itself, but is a means to an end – namely, positive and sustainable change at scale in the lives of people living in povertyFor Oxfam, ‘influencing’ means: ‘systematic efforts to change power relationships; attitudes, and beliefs; social norms and behaviours; the formulation and implementation of official policies, laws/regulations, budgets; and company policies and practices, in ways that promote more just and sustainable societies without poverty’. (Oxfam National Influencing Guidelines, internal).
Influencing is not an end in itself, but is a means to an end – namely, positive and sustainable change at scale in the lives of people living in poverty – and is applicable in all the countries where we work.
Oxfam and other NGOs have been ‘influencing’ in one way or another for decades but the form it takes varies according to the issue and political and economic context where we work. It may include, among other things:
- Advocacy and public campaigning (for example, through Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign or the Philippines campaign on climate change) to change government and corporate policy and practice whether via coalition building, research, policy development, lobbying, media, digital tools, mobilisation (of activists, supporters, citizens), coordinated worldwide communications and/or networking. This can involve using opportunities for change, for example financial crises or economic downturns, elections or long term changes in public opinion.
- Promoting and scaling up innovative solutions with governments and companies to end poverty and inequality, based on Oxfam’s experience of implementing development and humanitarian programmes. Here’s an example from Tajikistan.
- Supporting and strengthening citizens voice and civil society organisations, networks and movements (e.g. of women, small scale farmers, indigenous peoples, workers, and other marginalised groups) to claim their rights.
- Changing social norms and behaviours that contribute to poverty and suffering e.g. such as violence against women and girls.
- Working in partnerships, alliances and networks to disseminate or scale up change. See Oxfam’s partnership principles.
As Oxfam International’s Executive Director has explained:
‘For Oxfam, Influencing is not only a tool, it is part of who we are. Whether it is working to ensure there is adequate humanitarian space so a response can take place quickly and effectively, learning from the best of our country programs and advocating for replication at scale, supporting partners to hold their government to account for delivery of essential services, or lobbying a G20 member to adopt policies that will empower people living in poverty, influencing has a key role to play in every country in which Oxfam works’. (Winnie Byanyima)
Future posts on influencing will explore the different influencing strategies listed above, as well as; different ideas and models of influencing and their evolution; and influencing at different levels and scales.
We are also interested in the implications for influencing from the different and often fast changing contexts where Oxfam works across the world, whether the challenges from shrinking civic space and rising isolationism, opportunities from emerging social movements and digital activism, or other trends.
Please comment below or contact us if you want to know more about the series or would like to write a blog