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Implementation Gaps

Where are the gaps in the way we campaign?

Duncan Green's picture

The summer is a time for relaxed chats in my Brixton office. This week it was with a seasoned NGO campaigner who’s been on a break and wondering about re-entry into the UK/global development and environment campaign scene at the research-y end. Where are the gaps and potential niches that a bright, reflective, experienced campaigner-turned-researcher could help to fill? Here’s a few that came up, inevitably influenced by How Change Happens and attendant reading.

Implementation Gaps: A lot of successful campaigning targets the gap between policy and practice – what the government or the law has said vs. what is happening in reality. It may not have the intellectual appeal of starting with a clean sheet and saying ‘if I ruled the world, I would do X’, but the chances of getting somewhere are much higher. So how about a guide to IGap campaigning – how to identify them, work out which ones are the most promising, case studies of success, questions to ask etc?

Positive Deviance: I’m getting increasingly obsessed with this as a huge potential addition to the development repertoire. Instead of jumping in and opening a project or campaign, start by looking for the positive outliers that already exist on any given issue. Go and study them, and then use social learning to spread the message. The outsider acts as a facilitator, not a ‘doer/intervenor’. But all the positive deviance examples I’ve seen refer to programming – tackling on-the-ground problems like child malnutrition in Vietnam. What would a PD-based campaign look like? Go out and identify existing positive outliers on tax evasion, respect for human rights, or smallholders in value chains, then build a campaign to scale them up?

The Importance of Implementation Gaps

Duncan Green's picture

I’ve been reading the set of papers Oxfam recently published on local governance and community action (see previous blog) and was struck by how central the issue of ‘implementation gaps’ is in our work.

An implementation gap is where a set of institutions (often created via decentralization), policies or budgets (or all three) exist on paper, but are absent on the ground. Such a situation provides a particularly good entry point for an INGO like Oxfam because it reduces political risk (you are supporting the implementation of what the state has already agreed) and the benefits are likely to be easier to achieve and can have a galvanizing effect – plucking low-hanging fruit is great for morale and motivation. In terms of power analysis, this is about making the most of ‘invited spaces’ rather than creating new ones.