A changing world poses new challenges, and opens up new opportunities, for Oxfam’s work to end poverty, inequality, and injustice. Steve Price Thomas, Oxfam International’s Director of Advocacy and Campaigns explains why Oxfam has adopted a ‘world-wide influencing’ approach, as part of a series on influencing for change.
Our world faces seismic shifts—is Oxfam prepared to deal with them?
More than 65 million people have been forced from their homes by war and persecution, and have all too often been met by shut doors from countries which could help. The gap between the ultra-rich and the rest of us keeps growing wider every year. Climate change has intensified droughts and tropical storms. Massive corporations racing to snap up scarce resources like forests and farmlands threaten the small communities which depend on them.
it’s not just the global poverty picture which has changed; we’ve seen the balance of international power shiftBut it’s not just the global poverty picture which has changed; we’ve seen the balance of international power shift. The United States and Europe are seeing their influence on poverty-related issues slowly wane with the rise of groups like the BRICs, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the G20.
Civil society is also shifting the way it operates. The communications revolution and social networking has enabled more and more people, especially young people, to share information, ideas, and organize. At the same time, technology has also allowed authoritarian governments to spy and crack down on activists.
With so much change, how can Oxfam, a 75-year-old organization remain relevant and still make an impact on poverty, inequality, and injustice?
Our Strategic Plan puts it like this:
‘By 2020, Oxfam will have contributed to achieve more profound and lasting change in the lives of people living with poverty and injustice. We will have done this at a far greater scale by creating a world-wide influencing network (WIN) of integrated country based teams, united by a common vision for change, adequately resourced, able to use the full range of influencing techniques at their disposal, and actively participating in a wider movement to fight against the injustice of poverty.’
Step one? We are putting the strength, reach, and resources in the hands of those best-placed to make real change. We’ve created independent Oxfam affiliates in countries like Brazil, South Africa, and India. We’re moving our Oxfam International headquarters from Oxford to Nairobi.
We’re thinking big. Our influencing strategies extend beyond research, advocacy and public campaigningWith those teams in place, we’re also putting more of Oxfam’s ‘influencing’ work into the hands of country teams. We’re building a world-wide influencing network, through which Oxfam affiliates and country teams can join with civil society and other organizations around the world to support the voices of marginalized people. We hope this will also enable more agile and decentralized influencing and calculated risk-taking.
We’re thinking big. Our influencing strategies extend beyond research, advocacy and public campaigning. We’re also working with partners to:
- Change the social norms and behaviours that underlie poverty.
- Strengthen civil society and citizens’ voice.
- Scale up innovative solutions based on Oxfam’s or others experience of implementing development and humanitarian programs.
- Open political spaces by bringing together governments, private sector and civil society organisations, and others.
Country staff are integrating influencing with their humanitarian and development work into a single ‘one programme’ country strategy. We also intend to generate a body of critical evidence to test our assumptions about how change happens so we can strengthen our strategy.
Future blog posts in this series will explore the vital and challenging process of influencing from local to globalThat’s the vision. But will this be an appropriate and effective response to our changing world? How will our vision translate into practice? Future blog posts in this series will explore the vital and challenging process of influencing from local to global with examples from Oxfam and elsewhere.
Are you a practitioner, researcher, policy maker or other professional involved in influencing? We are interested to hear about the influencing strategies you use, their effectiveness and the challenges you have encountered, comment below.
- The Enough campaign to end violence against women and girls, led by low and middle income country programs, is one example of Oxfam’s Worldwide Influencing Network in action.