Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity


CGD Podcast


Jamie Drummond calls development policy "the dull stuff," which, as you can imagine, does not go down well with your CGD Podcast host. Despite my best efforts, and the clamor of outraged CGD fellows at the door of the studio with pitchforks, he remains unrepentant on this point throughout our podcast. In fairness, Drummond is comparing policy to pop culture, so perhaps, relatively speaking, he may have a point.

Almost a year since the adoption of the SDGs in a celebrity-endorsed fanfare, we’re discussing how the practice of advocacy has changed through time, and what organizations like ONE and CGD can learn from each other.

Yet Drummond is clear about the central role that policy plays in the advocacy work of ONE, the campaigning organization he cofounded with Bono and others, that now counts 7 million people worldwide as members. Policy is number one in his four "P"s—the vital elements he identifies in any attempt to affect change.

"We put together and find good evidence-based policy," he says. “Then we talk to people on both sides of the political aisle, as well as both sides of the Atlantic, to try and build broad coalitions. Then we try and get people to speak into the political process, in order to get this evidence-based policy agreed by both sides so that the policy change is sustainable. And then we make sure, through the fourth 'P' of pop culture, that there is a general sense in the zeitgeist of excitement. You have to excite the zeitgeist, you've got to caffeinate the crowd sufficiently about the issue and that requires some sugar-coating of the substance with celebrity."

From what he says, the four "P"s then are policy, politics (or bipartisan politics, to be more precise), people, and pop culture. 

"If you don’t have all four 'P's, one celebrity is nothing," says Drummond.

This theory of change developed by ONE has been informed by Drummond’s own experiences, from living in an ashram in India at age 17 and working with children with polio, to helping to organize the global multi-organization campaign Drop the Debt in the years leading up to 2000. Now, a dozen years since it was founded, ONE claims its efforts in sub-Saharan Africa have helped more than 10 million people have access to lifesaving AIDS medication, and 60 million children go to school. Most recently it worked to get the Electrify Africa Act 2016 passed in the US Congress. Drummond says the results are clear, but he’d still welcome a more rigorous evaluation of ONE's four-"P"s strategy.

"I wish CGD would rip them to pieces," he says, "I wish academics would pay attention to the social science and study and the public policy of advocacy, do really great trials and studies of it, because we need to understand the ROI [Return On Investment] of advocacy much better than we do."


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.