Friendly Outsider or Critical Insider? An Action Research Account of Oxfam’s Private Sector Engagement

L. de L. Pesqueira Fernandez

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


NGOs increasingly engage with the private sector with the objective of addressing complex sustainability issues. Problems like poverty, deforestation, food security, and climate change cannot be managed by governments alone. In this scenario, collaboration between NGOs and the private sector regarding the creation of sustainability standards is an alternative with the potential to create innovative solutions through societal coordination and self-regulation.
This study explores how NGOs can manage and leverage collaboration with the private sector as a strategy to accomplish their mission. Using an action research approach and empirical evidence from Oxfam Novib, the study analyses Oxfam's participation in the creation of certification standards and the strategies employed to articulate human rights principles therein. It also assesses the extent to which Oxfam’s private sector portfolio helps fulfill its theory of change and identifies the core organizational competencies required to manage private sector engagement. Furthermore, the study illustrates how Oxfam negotiates with and mediates between actors holding conflicting views about sustainability certification. Lastly, the research discusses the contributions of private sector engagement to carry out NGO goals, highlighting the inherent tensions and limitations that come with it.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Glasbergen, P., Primary supervisor
  • Leroy, P., Primary supervisor, External person
Award date18 Dec 2014
Print ISBNs978-90-6266-381-1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2014


  • global private governance
  • human rights
  • nongovernmental organizations
  • partnerships
  • sustainability


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