By: Jacob Loose, CISD Masters
When we visited Oxfam’s London office, we learned about the Oxfam Theory of Change. It is based on the principle that first people ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. Our visit was designed to help representatives from various universities set up their own societies, and we are excited to say a SOAS Oxfam society is currently forming! We encourage everyone who is passionate about making bringing about change to join us.
John McLaverty, former SOAS student and current Education and Youth Advisor at the Oxfam Campaigns team, has been instrumental in helping to bring together the SOAS Oxfam society. John said he was surprised to see SOAS did not already have an existing society, considering the fact that the student population is so politically engaged. The objective of our society will be to channel political engagement into student-led Oxfam campaigns that hopefully result in meaningful change.
“First people ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”
At this event, we learned this kind of meaningful change will only be possible with strategically targeted campaigning. In any campaign, the planning stage is critical in identifying a realistic and achievable objective. We learned that in order to do this, it is necessary to first identify who holds power. John referred to those in power as the potential ‘blockers’ of the changes you are trying to make. The blockers could be the decision-makers in big corporations or those in government. While the blockers’ power may mean that progress on a campaign is slow, John pointed out that a campaign without blockers is a campaign that has already been won.
A current Oxfam campaign we’re interested in is called ‘Behind the Barcodes’. For this campaign targeting corporations, Oxfam have conducted extensive research into publicly available documents about how supermarkets treat their suppliers on a range of metrics. This research has recently been compiled into a league table of supermarkets, with Aldi currently being the worst performing. We were told this campaign was a challenging one for Oxfam, as the supermarkets with the least documentation about their supply chain were all budget-priced. It is important to emphasise that this campaign’s objective is not to ask those on a limited budget to boycott individual supermarkets. Instead, Oxfam are encouraging members of the public to hand a letter to the manager of the supermarket that they use, saying that this issue is important to them and asking the company to improve their Behind the Barcodes table ranking.
While SOAS’s Oxfam society is still very much in the planning phase, we do have an initial idea of how to implement the Behind the Barcodes campaign on the SOAS campus. We want to host an event, possibly in the JCR, informing students and others about this campaign. Then, we will work together to write letters and deliver them to supermarkets! This is a campaign that directly relates to student lives, as most of us have on a tight budget for our weekly shops, but we agree that supermarkets should deliver a fair wage to their suppliers.
If you are inspired to be part of this change-making, please join our brand new society!
Photo Source: Oxfam Website