University of Sussex
Cascant Sempere, Maria-Josep.pdf (3.45 MB)

Political action in a campaigning development NGO through a social movement lens – the case of Actionaid’s tax justice campaign in Nigeria and the UK

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posted on 2023-06-09, 05:07 authored by Kas Sempere
Campaigning has become an important area of work for development NGOs (NGDOs). How political, in terms of public mobilising to confront authority, has it become? What frameworks can we best use to study this? Based on precedents such as della Porta and Diani’s suggestion (2006) that social movement (SM) theory can be enlarged as a theory of collective action, I borrow six SM concepts – frames, repertoires, networks, mobilising structures, identity and political opportunities-threats. I then combine them with NGDO campaigning literature themes to explore those questions in a case study of ActionAid’s Tax Justice Campaign (TJC) in Nigeria and the UK. ActionAid's TJC operates through two campaign formats – a single-issue format with one international claim and a multiple-issue format with claims specific to each level. Both formats exist in tension for campaign resources, yet combine to expose international and domestic causes of poverty in low-income countries. This example illustrates ActionAid’s campaigning style: walking a tightrope to balance tensions and opportunities in its idea of ‘campaigning’. This style also includes embracing moderate and radical supporter views on poverty and a structure of sponsorship and service-delivery programmes with campaigning accompanying them. For example, financial supporters mobilise towards confronting authorities alongside direct campaigner recruitment. Other NGDOs share this, with other ActionAid campaign features, which together shapes an understanding towards the idea of NGDO political action. I suggest that my findings contribute to both NGDO campaigning and SM theory. To NGDO campaign actors, SM theory provides a new vocabulary to study NGDO campaigning, particularly little explored dimensions in NGDO campaign literature such as state/authority confrontation and political identity. To SM theory, my findings offer an empirical contribution which helps position campaigning NGDOs as another type of contentious actor. At a practice level, ActionAid’s multiple-issue campaigning may help prevent local tokenism in international campaigns.


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