Top case studies of public campaigning and how to influence developing country and donor governments. Please add your own

What are your favourite, well-documented examples of a) public campaigning and b) influencing developing country and donor governments? I’m asking because, as part of the LSE’s impending training programme for senior aid peeps, part of the ‘Global Executive Leadership Initiative’. I have to put together brief annotated ‘further reading/listening/watching’ lists on those two issues. I want more examples of donors and non-NGO actors driving change, plus my current draft involves far too much Oxfam and self-citation (no change there then….).

I’m looking for brief, analytical summaries, which show the combination of context analysis, stakeholder mapping, luck and learning that go into most successful exercises in influencing. Here are the drafts – over to you.

Campaigns to Influence, Annotated Further Reading

Books and Book Chapters:

D. Green, ‘The Power of Advocacy’ and ‘Putting it All Together’, chapters 11 and 12 in How Change Happens, (OUP, 2016). Free to download here

Final chapters, pulling together theory and practice on power, systems and influencing.

N. Kuperus, M. Meeske, S. van Veen, Beating the Drum – how do influencing networks get results?, 2020

Oxfam Novib (Netherlands) research comparing nine examples of influencing networks (not single actors), falling into 3 camps: Influencing Intergovernmental Organizations; Influencing National Governments and Influencing at Multiple Levels. Blog summary here.

A. de Waal (2015) Advocacy in Conflict: Critical Perspectives on Transnational Activism. London: Zed Books. Chapters 1, 2, 6, 7 and 12. FP2P Review.

A highly critical look at some of the ineffective and mistaken approaches (think Kony 2012) used in INGO advocacy.

How we’re breaking it down


R. Mayne, C. Stalker, A. Wells-Dang and R. Barahona, How has Oxfam’s approach to Influencing evolved over the last 75 years? (2019)

Stuffed full of enlightening case studies and should be of interest to anyone who wants to understand how INGOs developed their current interest in advocacy, lobbying, campaigns etc. Blog summary with links here.


UN Behavioural Science Group

UN Innovation Network initiative, with some fascinating case studies of how to ‘nudge’ behaviours in a progressive direction. Eg Vaccine hesitancy: 10 lessons from chatbotting about COVID-19 in 17 countries (World Bank) or Why Do People Do What They Do? A Social Norms Manual for Zimbabwe and Swaziland (UNICEF)


Putting Positive Deviance into Practice: A brilliant UN Women initiative on domestic violence

An example from Moldova, where according to the woman in charge of UN Women, ‘we had never asked the survivors if they could speak up, talk in public. It was totally new for us.’ The results are impressive, and the methodology fascinating.

Influencing Host and Donor Governments


J. Sidel and J. Faustino, ‘Thinking and Working Politically in Development’ (Asia Foundation, 2019).

Looks at experience of the celebrated Coalitions for Change (CfC) programme in the Philippines, which has achieved an impressive track record in governance reforms from tax and excise to cycle routes in Manila. Not the most user-friendly (no exec sum, no index), but at least it’s open access – download here. Or read Duncan Green’s review, and his podcast and blog from a 2018 visit.

M. Andrews, L. Pritchett and M. Woolcock, Building State Capability: Evidence, Analysis, Action (2017)

Sets out the thinking behind Harvard’s ‘PDIA’ (Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation) approach, a tried and tested methodology for internal reforms in governments where there is an ‘authorising environment’. Open Access here. Review here.


J.W. Busby (2007) ‘Bono Made Jesse Helms Cry: Jubilee 2000, Debt Relief, and Moral Action in International Politics’. International Studies Quarterly, 51: 247-75. (free to download here)

Academic case study of the Jubilee 2000 campaign for developing country debt relief in the 1990s, which contributed to donor initiatives that provided billions in debt relief to the poorest countries.

MacAuslan (2008) India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act: A Case Study for How Change Happens

Fascinating account of one of the origins of the world’s largest cash-for-work programmes.


Thinking and Working Politically Community of Practice.

Brings together academics and practitioners (especially donors), with a particular focus on governance reform. Events, publications etc.


Thinking and Working Politically in Economic Development Programmes – Some Sprints and Stumbles from a DFID Programme in Kyrgyzstan

Andrew Koleros (Palladium) and David Rinnert, (DFID) on an interesting example that breaks out of the governance bubble to address wider economic reforms (reforms to internal trade and tax laws).

How Oxfam and Save changed US aid on local ownership

Nice case study in influencing, showing the power of coming up with the right tool, in this case a graphic.

5 Lessons from Working with Businesses to Support Workers around the World

Reflections on the first 20 years of the UK’s Ethical Trading Initiative. Thoughts on working with stakeholders in the private sector.

Podcasts and Videos:

How does an INGO like Oxfam help Africa get a good deal from its Natural Resources?

Interview with Oxfam’s Gilbert Makore on national/regional INGO advocacy. (25m Podcast + blog)

Four female activists tell us what they need from their international allies.

Short video interviews with grassroots activists.

Over to you. Looking for examples that will generate new ideas and insights, please, with one sentence on why they are so good.

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4 Responses to “Top case studies of public campaigning and how to influence developing country and donor governments. Please add your own”
  1. Jay Goulden

    Couple of blogs reflecting on CARE’s advocacy and influencing successes, and the learning behind these, at and They both look across a portfolio of cases that have been documented over the last 5 years, drawing out common threads around the most effective advocacy and influencing strategies used, towards both global South Governments and donors, with links to specific cases.

  2. Which are the Beckoning Hands That Bring Change?

    I stared at the road, stunned. We cannot believe that after 31 years of full-time unpaid volunteer activism I feel like I have just started at my age of 75 years old!
    I live in the same community since 48 years and two modest community venues, of the former pre-90s system, a Public Library, a Community Park disappeared, and there was nothing I could do to save them. The authorities ignored our voices and calls for preservation.
    I still attend visionary international meetings, read non-stop, etc. in order to develop skills to enact change in my social and community life. Nonetheless, despite the years going by, the ageing platform in Albania is on standby ever since my younger years until now that I’ve reached 75 years old. Mastery requires consistency and hard work, but most of our effort, lobbying and requests are outright failures. I am ashamed to always repeat the same phrases regarding the situation of the elderly in Albania. We, unfortunately have a serious lack of institutional structures. Our local government with long-term governance programmes ‘worked themselves out of a job’; surely, this explains their reputation for quixotic failure among taxpayers. Our efforts seem to have no impact.
    I reach old age without enjoying any change in favor of older women. We remain an unlucky generation.

  3. Hi Duncan, here is a blog written by a colleague from IPAR-Rwanda, a local think tank in Rwanda. It relates to a project we at Kivu International are supporting, to provide evidence and policy options on the socio-economic recovery from Covid-19. It’s a clear account of some of the key considerations for increasing your chances of influencing policy, and sets this out in the Rwandan policymaking context.

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