Power and Popular Politics

In a world that is increasingly affected by a rise in authoritarianism and populist politics, our research supports the actors who are promoting progressive social change, helping them generate the learning, insights and evidence they need for effective action.

We are particularly focused on bottom-up and informal forms of political action that go beyond institutionalised forms of participation, from movements and protest action to the more everyday forms of action that may resist dominance and exclusion.

Our research is helping to shape policy and practice in different ways:

Reclaiming gender justice

With women’s rights under threat in many different countries, the IDS-hosted Countering Backlash programme is helping identify actions needed for women’s rights organisations and gender justice defenders to counter backlash and patriarchy.

Just Transitions

Our research points out how communities act against the detrimental effects of extractive industries, and how their voices need to be heard in debates on clean energy transitions.

Helping humanitarian operations become more accountable to affected populations

The work of our Power and Popular Politics cluster centres on voice and accountability in humanitarian aid. An independent evaluation by IDS and partners on the UN’s humanitarian response in Yemen found that the operation had saved lives, but in many areas aid was of “unacceptably poor quality”.

Sharing insights on action and empowerment in complex settings

Through a  five-year research programme across multiple countries, our research examined how accountability, governance and citizenship play out in fragile and violence-affected settings, producing a powerful final report ‘Against the Odds’.

Youth politics

Our research on youth contributes to understanding youth politics and meaningful youth engagement for peace and security.

Promoting inclusion and equality

Various projects focus on safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage of religious, ethnic and linguistic minorities in the Middle East, such as the Middle East People’s Culture Conservation Collective. Previous research from the Coalition for Religious Equality in Development (CREID) was presented in the UK House of Commons to inform foreign policy.

Using a power lens is distinctive to all of our work. We use qualitative approaches, ethnography and action research that foreground the perspectives and experiences of the actors promoting social change. Civil society organisations are often part of our research consortia.

Key contacts

Marjoke Oosterom

Power and Popular Politics Cluster Lead



Recent work

Working Paper

Landscapes of (In)justice: Reflecting on Voices, Spaces, and Alliances for Just Transition

IDS Working Paper 594

Diverse groups of citizens need to be engaged in the design and implementation of global energy transition policies across all scales and sectors for them to succeed and be socially acceptable. But how? And what lessons can we take from emerging practice to guide future action?

Peter Newell & 2 others

18 September 2023


Youth-led Preservation of Syriac Orthodox Heritage in Syria

This report explores the Sayfo genocide, also known as the Asyrian genocide, and a youth-led project that brought together the Syriac Orthodox community in Syria to remember and memorialise those who were killed in the genocide. Produced as part of the IDS-led and British Academy funded...

18 September 2023


Youth in Africa and the future of democracy

Democracy around the world is under threat. Young people are often looked at as ‘the next generation’ who can rescue it, defying authoritarian regimes and forces on national and global levels. But as a highly diverse group, there are some young people that will, and are, supporting and...

15 September 2023



Learning support to the ALIADAS-WVL programme in Mozambique

In this project, IDS designed and delivered a 5-day workshop in Nampula, Mozambique on behalf of the ALIADAS-WVL programme in March 2023. The ALIADAS-WVL programme convenes a network of NGOs working to defend the rights of women and girls across Mozambique, and requested support from IDS to...


Learning at the intersections of just transitions

The Just Transitions Learning Project will increase voice and power, and support more inclusive and effective advocacy strategies, among marginalised communities and groups affected by energy transitions inhigh-inequality, resource-rich nations of Africa and Latin America.