Oxfam America takes a long view. COO Jim Daniell says the non-government organization (NGO) offers solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice focused on empowerment – not solving problems. “The big change is power. You don’t end poverty by giving somebody stuff,” Daniell says. “You give them opportunities. Usually, the opportunities have been denied to them by somebody else.”
Oxfam America relies on local collaborations and partnerships to solve problems. Daniell cited the NGO’s work in ending violence against women as an example. Once it conducts a detailed analysis, Oxfam brings together various stakeholders, such as governments, churches, and women’s groups to address them. “We’re supporting them,” Daniell says. “It’s not like we’re showing up and telling them how to do it. They’re telling us: here’s the problem, and here’s how we think we can fix it. It’s a little bit like being a social venture capitalist.”
Oxfam America, which is one of 17 members of the international Oxfam confederation, has 170 employees at its headquarters in Boston, another 80 staff in Washington, D.C., and some 250 employees working out of six hubs outside the United States. Contributions have grown every year, reaching about $95 million in 2015, with 77 percent of funds going toward program services. The bulk of resources goes toward programs to overcome poverty and injustice (42 percent). The rest is spent saving lives in emergency response situations (26.4 percent), campaigning for social justice (22.8 percent), and on public education (8.8 percent).
Looking forward, Daniell says the single biggest challenge for Oxfam, and the charity industry in general, is platform transformation. Daniell sees a need for a fundamental change in the way charities do business. “This industry will be in its current form eliminated. Something else will take its place,” he says. “That’s part of why I’m excited about NewCo. It’s not just having people come visit Oxfam. I’m sending my senior leaders from all Oxfam America, worldwide, out to NewCo. Go look around, go see what those organizations look and feel like. Do we look like that? Is that the kind of organization we want to be? If we aspire to be something far greater than what we are today, then we are very far from it.” —Jennifer Chung Klam