Inequality, Intersectionality and Innovation: Our 2018

Susanna Griffiths General

Susanna Griffiths, Digital Content Editor for Views & Voices, takes a look back at our most popular content in 2018 and reflects.

The number of people living in extreme poverty has more than halved in a decade. But overcoming poverty isn’t just about addressing material needs, it is about equal access to opportunities; dignity and self-esteem, and shared prosperity. Tackling inequality is one of Oxfam’s top priorities. In January, we published a series of blog posts to coincide with the World Economic Forum in Davos, including a podcast exploring people’s perceptions of inequality.

Gender Justice Director, Nikki Van Der Gaag, notes that dissatisfaction at increasing inequality has contributed to led to a more autocratic and hate-filled world. This threatens hard-won gender equality and women’s rights, and she explains why we need to challenge the new normal. The legacy of #MeToo continues into 2018, across countries and sectors, including international development. “This has affected Oxfam, and while undoubtedly painful it provides an opportunity to advance gender justice and women’s rights in the culture of our organisations and the work that we do”.

Intersectionality is an essential lens for looking at inequalities in the lives of women and girls. The Gender & Development Network shares strategies for the development sector to define and make best use of this concept. Gender and development consultant and social justice blogger, Srushti Mahamuni, shares uplifting visions of a feminist future where an intersectional approach is applied in practice.

So how can Oxfam work better with others to achieve the change we want to see in the world? As part of our Influencing Series, we share learning from a meta-review of our policy influencing, citizen’s voice and governance initiatives around the world. In Book Banter, we explore the concept of ‘nudge’ (a tiny design change targeted to a specific group of people), and how this could be used in our campaigning and influencing work. And we also reflect on how we can better engage with social movements.

In 2018, protracted conflicts have continued to cause hardship for millions of people. Programme Manager, Tim Holmes, gives a visceral account of his time in Gaza, “I was told that the years of occupation, wars and blockade, combined with a new low in the economic and humanitarian situation in recent months, has meant that this is ‘now the worst time in our history.’” And Humanitarian Coordinator, Alexandros Yiannopoulos, details why Oxfam is calling for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen.

Conflict is one of the major reasons for displacement, and we are now seeing the highest levels on record. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports that an unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from their homes, with nearly one person forcibly displaced every two seconds. Cecilia Kiden talks candidly about the harsh realities of her work as an emergency responder working with people displaced by conflict in South Sudan, “Being there to help my country people can be so rewarding of course, but this role has also brought some of the worst experiences of my life.”

Looking long-term, we share lessons learned on how to help displaced people build their adaptive capacity and resilience. And Humanitarian Campaigner, Fionna Smyth, uses her own experiences of growing up in 1970s Northern Ireland to reflect on the ingredients needed for enduring peace processes, “If we truly want to transform peoples’ lives supporting them to build peaceful futures for themselves must be part of that equation.”

October saw the launch of Oxfam’s Behind the Barcode campaign, highlighting the role major supermarkets can play in preventing human suffering in their supply chains. We scored them on their public policies and practices, and made recommendations for actions they could take. In the UK, Aldi came bottom of our scorecard, prompting them to take steps to improve their human rights policy.

Our Future of Business Initiative blog and podcast on alternative business models explore what businesses could do to take a step further to put people before profit. They highlight how social enterprises are already successfully sharing their prosperity more widely with stakeholders.

2018 has seen a wider application of exciting new technologies and innovations. Blockchain has revolutionised cash transfer programming, shifting power dynamics by getting more aid money directly into the hands of people who need it. We have also been looking at ground-breaking new ways for the sector to work with philanthropists, sharing learning from a recent loan agreement made to Oxfam from the Meditor Trust.

Innovation has also been a key theme for Oxfam’s work in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); turning solid waste into valuable energy, promoting solar water pumping in refugee camps, low-energy desalination technologies, even 3D printed toilets! But crises like the Ebola outbreak in DRC highlight that public health and community engagement is still foundational to our work.

Our Real Geek learning and evaluation series has proved popular again this year, with a strong focus on ensuring that no-one gets left behind. This can mean taking steps to ensure all voices are heard in evaluation processes, and considering power dimensions and their intersections more broadly.

Oxfam America’s Director for Learning, Effectiveness and Accountability, Stephen Porter shares very personal reflections on what goes unseen and unsaid. He looks at novels that have shaped his own journey, and discloses, “It is instructive to have an extreme to hold your own practice against as a warning and to help understand consequences of failures in practice.”

So with this thought we head into 2019, resolving to keep on challenging ourselves and others, and continuing to learn and share.