Working across levels to gain the right to education

One good issue in which to see the impact of different levels of power is in the area of education. While we often think of education as a long or national issue, in recent years a plethora of global policies, norms and frameworks affect how people are able to realise the universal right of Education for All.  In a recent study, John Gaventa and Marj Mayo examine the changing landscape of power in the educational arena, and how the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) has tried to work across all levels of power in order to campaign for the right to quality, free education for all.  Established in 1999, the GCE is now one of the longest-standing global campaigns on a poverty-related issue and has a positive reputation for the ways in which it has been able to build and maintain a strong, diverse, inclusive coalition across many countries and across many layers and levels of policymaking and policy implementation.  Yet it does so in a changing landscape in which the governance of education illustrates the challenges of responding to the multi-level, multi-layered, diffuse nature of global governance today.

Despite the importance of working in and across many levels and spaces, thinking and organisation models for transnational coalitions tend to remain vertical, giving rise to tensions about legitimacy, voice and representation.  Any global advocacy coalition also faces potential tensions between the need to take action speedily and the need to consult and maintain inclusive democratic processes, and between the need for short-term achievements and the need to maintain longer-term horizons for the achievement of development goals. The GCE largely managed to avoid, minimize or overcome most of these tensions.   How did the GCE manage to avoid this and other common pitfalls in global coalitions?   Five success factors appear very important:

  • strong national and local roots for the campaign
  • carefully built governance structures reflecting these identities
  • inclusive framing of messages
  • recognition of and attention to the contributions and value added at each level
  • long-term resources for sustainability

Summary based on John Gaventa and Marj Mayo, ‘Spanning citizenship spaces through transnational coalitions:  the case of the Global Campaign for Education’ IDS/Citizenship DRC Working Paper. This paper is one of ten case studies which examine how globalization is changing power, and how this affects citizen action across levels. Others may also be found on the Citizenship DRC case study series web page.

For other work that outlines how the powercube analysis can be used to inform global citizen action, see Mapping the Public Policy Landscape and Making Change Happen 2: Citizen Engagement and Global Economic Power


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