Forging Trust: A Vital Socioeconomic Dimension of Oxfam International’s Poverty Alleviation Programs in India’s National Capital Region | Teen Ink

Forging Trust: A Vital Socioeconomic Dimension of Oxfam International’s Poverty Alleviation Programs in India’s National Capital Region

June 23, 2022
By MaximilianMandl BRONZE, New Canaan, Connecticut
MaximilianMandl BRONZE, New Canaan, Connecticut
1 article 0 photos 0 comments


Trust is an often overlooked socioeconomic factor when determining the extent to which international development organizations empower the financially impoverished populations that they serve. Nevertheless, it can be a vital factor for such organizations in their attempts to foster poverty alleviation. This is particularly true with respect to the efforts of Oxfam International (Oxfam) in India’s National Capital Region (NCR). This paper identifies three interrelated indexes that measure an organization’s trust-building capacity with its stakeholders and applies them to Oxfam’s poverty relief efforts throughout NCR. These indexes include an organization’s mission statement, structure, and funding sources. This paper explores why each of these indexes can serve as a benchmark of trust for Oxfam in this region and suggests that they can be applied on a wider scale to other organizations that assist marginalized communities worldwide. 

Background Information 

The World Bank defines extreme poverty in terms of people who live on less than $1.90 USD per day. Unfortunately, there are over 1.2 million people throughout India’s National Capital Region (NCR) who live in extreme poverty (Economic Survey of Delhi 395). NCR comprises the entire National Capital Territory along with adjoining districts in neighboring states, including Ghaziabad, Noida, Gurgaon, and Faridabad. NCR is also a rural-urban region with a population of over 46,069,000 people and an urbanization level of 62.6% (NCR Planning Board). People experiencing extreme poverty in this region face both food and housing insecurity. In addition, they lack financial resources to purchase clothing, cosmetics, toiletries, appliances, food, utilities, transportation, communication devices, educational access, healthcare services, monthly loan repayments, and other important goods and services (Roy et al. 5). 

Beyond defining poverty in terms of material deprivation, international development organization Oxfam International (Oxfam) describes poverty the following way: “Poverty is a state of powerlessness in which people are unable to exercise their basic human rights or control virtually any aspect of their lives” (Oxfam International Staff). By way of background, Oxfam is a global group dedicated to addressing poverty and injustice. It contains more than 3,000 local partner institutions in 98 countries across the globe (Oxfam International Staff). Its headquarters in India is located in NCR’s New Delhi Okhla Industrial Estate and Oxfam has been operating in India since 1951. Both in NCR and across its multiple other impact areas, Oxfam’s conception of poverty does not limit the term’s scope to physical necessities. Rather, it seeks to implement programs that address the people it serves holistically (i.e., accounting for states of powerlessness that are emotional, physical, or both). Insofar as Oxfam remains true to this norm when enacting it, Oxfam can cultivate trust among the people it serves by tending to their material and nonmaterial needs.

Unfortunately, trust tends to be a neglected socioeconomic dimension when evaluating the effectiveness of international development organizations and their impacts on the people that they serve. “Economists have little understanding of trust. As economists, we are trained to think of the economy as an amalgam of individual agents, although the social element is an indispensable part of the economy” (Perelman 381). Trust can be defined in terms of an “...assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something” (Merriam-Webster 1344). The success of Oxfam’s programming largely depends upon building strong partnerships with local actors based on trust (FBO Forum 5). Trust cultivation among the people served by Oxfam throughout NCR is an important lens through which to analyze Oxfam’s efforts. “Substantial empirical literature has confirmed that…trust is in fact an important determinant of a number of political and economic features” (Bjørnskov 1346). Recent economic research has begun to solidify the link between trust and poverty alleviation. This is partly due to the fact that multiple thorough and extensive research reports indicate that trust and economic growth are highly correlated (Beugelsdijk 118). One reason for this is because of the predicament of many of the individuals that experience poverty. Previous United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson stated, “...the poor are not aggregated in large organized social units that can be easily reached and, being extremely vulnerable, they cannot afford to confide in, or easily trust, outsiders…” (Robinson and Alston 37). In addition, Bal DiGhent, Founder of an Indian non-profit called Mission44Million, highlighted the importance of consistency, relationship building, and respect in the process of trust cultivation. He said, “Trust is automatically generated in the marginalised community when it feels that you are genuinely committing a part of your life to the marginalised and sharing with them the best way to access life opportunities…” When Oxfam’s representatives are able to achieve DiGhent’s aspiration, they can effectively forge trust among the people that they assist across NCR. 

Trust Index 1: Mission Statement

An organization’s mission statement defines its objectives and identity (Whipple 33). These elements of a mission statement can impact both the nature and implementation of a given organization’s programming. Although Oxfam’s stakeholders across NCR may not have read its mission statement, these people likely form their perceptions of Oxfam based on their first-hand experiences with its staff and partners via its extensive programming. The shape of these programs can also derive from mission statement goals. In turn, Oxfam’s mission statement can ultimately influence the levels of trust that it may cultivate among those it aids.

Oxfam’s mission states that it will “ people directly where local capacity is insufficient or inappropriate for Oxfam’s purposes” (Oxfam International Staff). In its mission, Oxfam aims to take action against violence, address the structural causes of poverty, and prevent and reverse damage to the environment (Oxfam International Staff). Its mission also identifies addressing economic inequality as a benchmark for success to counteract poverty. Economic inequality is sometimes not accounted for in mainstream anti-poverty human rights and development discourse. Oxfam’s mission states that, through its actions, “...inequalities can be significantly reduced both between rich and poor nations and within nations” (Oxfam International Staff). To this end, there is evidence that Oxfam publishes Gini coefficient statistics, and compares their fluctuations over time, for at least some of the countries in which it operates. This is especially true for India and its NCR, in which Oxfam documented the Gini of wealth to be 0.83, which places India among the countries with highest levels of inequality globally (Himanshu 17). Oxfam’s mission to identify and address inequality can bolster its level of trust among people in NCR who have been marginalized by socioeconomic inequities.

Oxfam’s emphasis on economic inequality may also prevent it from relying exclusively on benchmarks such as Gross Domestic Product and Gross National Product when considering the needs of financially impoverished people in NCR. GDP and GNP can mask staggering levels of economic disparity between a country’s richest and poorest citizens (Cypher and Dietz 57). A country’s high GDP or GNP, in short, does not necessarily signify general income equality among its population. “Overcoming the structural forces that create and perpetuate extreme inequality is one of the most efficient routes for overcoming extreme poverty” (Steiner 308). From these vantage points, Oxfam may be able to increase the trust it builds among its NCR stakeholders insofar as the nature and implementation of its programming seek to eradicate income inequality.

Oxfam’s mission-driven emphasis to address income inequality has apparently manifested in some of its programming throughout NCR. For example, Oxfam is a passionate advocate for fiscal policies that seek to correct inequalities. Oxfam recommends “...a one percent surcharge on the richest 10 percent of the Indian population to fund inequality combating measures such as higher investments in school education, universal healthcare, and social security benefits like maternity leaves, paid leaves and pension for all Indians” (Dogra). In accordance with its mission, Oxfam has made a series of specific recommendations in this regard. It advocates for a four percent tax on 98 billionaires. The proceeds of this tax can be used to fund mid-day meal programs across NCR for seventeen years (Dogra). Aside from providing food to people in need, Oxfam’s proposed tax can also fund other vital resources. Specifically, it can finance NCR’s total expenditure for school education and literacy (Dogra). Oxfam’s above-described efforts to combat inequality can potentially bolster its trustworthiness from the perspective of NCR’s underserved citizens.

Aside from addressing economic inequality, Oxfam’s mission includes an additional goal. One of the purposes of Oxfam’s mission is to “...protect the Oxfam name and enhance its standing” (Oxfam International Staff). To this end, Oxfam’s Code of Conduct states that “...all Affiliates recognise that protection of the integrity of the Oxfam name and brand is one of the principal purposes for which OI was formed” (Code of Conduct 5). The Oxfam brand has gained worldwide recognition. “This helps Oxfam position itself as an important and generally respected actor in trade and development issues” (Promises to Keep 12). Yet, will prioritizing Oxfam’s name ever undermine the trust of the people it serves? There is some evidence that it might. “The name ‘Oxfam’ comes from the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, founded in Britain in 1942” (Oxfam International Staff). Given Britain’s history of oppression in India, Oxfam’s very name and headquarters in the United Kingdom may not enhance its trust-building efforts in NCR. Furthermore, these characteristics affect Oxfam’s smaller affiliates in NCR, with a potentially lasting impact on allies and advocacy targets (Promises to Keep 19). This suggests that Oxfam may seem foreign to the non-European people in NCR that it serves. This possible perception could undercut their trust in Oxfam.


Trust Index 2: Structure


An organization’s structure can determine how it actualizes the goals of its mission statement (Lusthaus 11). The interrelated aspects of Oxfam’s structures analyzed below include its International Secretariat staff, affiliates and partners, treatment capabilities for mental health and related issues, promotion of local government accountability to citizens, commitment to gender equality, and evaluation of organizational progress. The below examples illustrate that each of these structural features may impact the extent to which Oxfam can cultivate trust among the people it serves across NCR.

The respective International Secretariat staff members of Oxfam are charged with the overall direction of each organization. “The purpose of the Secretariat is to provide leadership, coordination and facilitation to the Confederation as a whole” (Interim Reporting Framework 6). These responsibilities can have direct repercussions on the type and implementation of each organization’s programs and those they serve. In addition, the ability of Oxfam’s top leaders to work together may establish a framework for how their employees cooperate with one another and their constituents. In these ways, the International Secretariat staff of Oxfam can influence the levels of trust that each organization may instill among the recipients of their particular services in NCR.

Oxfam’s International Secretariat is located in the United Kingdom and Charles Gurassa is its current Chairman of the Board. Given his experience as current Chair of the Guardian Media Group and as the previous Chair of Channel 4, Gurassa can potentially leverage his expertise in the media industry to shape some of Oxfam’s positive initiatives across NCR. This could, in turn, increase stakeholder trust in Oxfam throughout this region. Furthermore, Oxfam discloses biographies about several of its other International Secretariat staff members. This information allows an assessment of how they can impact Oxfam’s ability to instill trust among those it serves across NCR.

Affiliates and Partners


Oxfam has a network of twenty one affiliate organizations throughout the world. Out of Oxfam’s affiliates and observer members, only three are in countries with large populations of people who are living in extreme poverty (i.e., Colombia, India, and Mexico). The predominantly Western locations of most of Oxfam’s affiliates may contribute toward Oxfam’s perception as somewhat foreign to its stakeholders since many of them live in non-Western areas, especially NCR. As such, it is vital that Oxfam’s structure promotes trust among NCR stakeholders through inclusive decision-making processes between its affiliates and its International Secretariat. “Overall public policy is framed in the Strategic Plan after wide consultation and debate within all affiliates…” (Board Accountability Policies 2). This strategy can provide affiliates with the opportunity to influence policy decisions in ways that may best serve Oxfam’s partners and stakeholders. As a result, such policies can impact the people that Oxfam serves across NCR in positive ways and potentially precipitate trust among them.

Moreover, this collaborative structure may establish a paradigm that Oxfam’s affiliates can adopt when interacting with Oxfam’s partners. These partner organizations may, in turn, be more likely to treat their beneficiaries as partners and work with them on the crafting and enactment of projects. According to moral economist Amartya Sen, “...with adequate social opportunities, individuals can effectively shape their own destiny and help each other. They need not be seen primarily as passive recipients of the benefits of cunning development programs” (11). As a result, such mutual cooperation can ultimately help create a trusting relationship between Oxfam and the people it serves throughout NCR.


Oxfam’s affiliate offices are accountable to their respective International Secretariats and work directly with partners across NCR. Partners tend to be local NGOs rooted in the particular communities served by these organizations. One of the reasons for Oxfam’s collaboration with such partners may be offered by the results of the Collaborative for Development Action’s “Listening Project,” an initiative that solicits feedback from individuals on the recipient side of humanitarian programs across the world. This project has found that these people generally place a premium on the long-term presence of organizations providing them with services, “...saying that ‘being here matters’” (FBO Forum 11). The “Consultations with the Poor” project has uncovered a similar finding: “Poor people indicated repeatedly, and in many contexts, that they trust and rely on their own local, informal institutions for support in crisis and in daily life, and rank them high in importance…” (Narayan 11).

Moreover, the importance of Oxfam’s partnerships with local NGOs can be reinforced by the apparent fact that “…social and economic changes necessarily disrupt traditional social groupings and undermine loyalty to traditional authorities. Leaders, secular and religious, of the village are challenged by [a] new elite of civil servants...who possess resources, and aspirations with which the traditional village cannot compete” (Huntington 36). In light of Huntington's observation, it seems that Oxfam’s partnerships with organizations that have a history of successful collaboration within a given community can help them engage in effective poverty alleviation strategies and mitigate the extent to which Oxfam is viewed as an outsider in NCR communities. The ability of Oxfam to engender trust among those it assists through these alliances may be limited to the extent that its beneficiaries’ experiences with such partner organizations are positive. To this end, Oxfam forges enriching partnerships with NCR-based NGOs that focus on providing underserved people with education, technology, healthcare, and water security.

In terms of offering educational programming, Oxfam collaborates with KidZania. “KidZania Delhi NCR, a Global Indoor Theme Park, joins hands with Oxfam India, an international charitable organization, to empower children to better understand social issues so that in the future they can be responsible citizens and create a positive impact in society” (Matta). Through an initiative called “Kids for a Cause,” KidZania and Oxfam emphasize forging social responsibility amongst its patrons. This program offers children an opportunity to undertake poverty education and awareness campaigns. Children are “…encouraged to role-play as volunteers at Oxfam India activity zone and will be responsible to build awareness about the Right to Education amongst other visitors. Through this activity kids will get to understand the concept of charity work, fundraising and that every child deserves the right to education and an equal chance to succeed” (Matta). 

Ms. Nisha Agrawal, the Chief Executive Officer of Oxfam India at the time of this partnership, reinforced the importance of providing such educational opportunities to underserved children. She said, “Education is the right for all and not a privilege for few, yet in India 60 lakh children are out of school. It is important for children to understand the struggle of millions to get access to this right…We hope this partnership will mobilize our future generations to care and contribute towards change in the world” (Matta). Through the power of education, Oxfam’s partnership can fuel academic excellence among children and equip them with the tools to achieve their personal best. In so doing, Oxfam can continue to instill trust among future generations of underserved people across NCR.

Oxfam also seeks to promote trust among this population through its partnership with Microsoft. Microsoft established its India operations in 1990 and has over 13,000 employees engaged in sales and marketing, research, development and customer services and support across NCR and other regions (Misra). Microsoft provides global cloud services from NCR-based data centers that offer employment opportunities to struggling citizens. Moreover, this process fuels technological information advancements for local Indian entrepreneurs, commercial endeavors, and government organizations. This is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic. The multiple waves of coronavirus in India have severely impacted the earning potential of many people, households, and communities throughout NCR. In light of this turn of events, the Oxfam-Microsoft partnership can provide vital economic relief during a time when people need it most and reinforces trust among them. 

The Oxfam-Microsoft partnership can also bolster trust by offering healthcare-based technological innovations that aid people across NCR. Manju Dhasmana, Director of Corporate Affairs and Corporate Social Responsibility/Philanthropy at Microsoft India reinforced this idea. He said, “Through our partnership with Oxfam India, we are focused on using our technology, skills, resources, and voice to intensify support for severely affected rural parts. We believe a collaborative approach is the best way and will continue to work closely with government and nonprofit partners to accelerate response” (Misra). This collaboration has resulted in the establishment of Pressure Swing Adsorption technology-based oxygen plants at hospitals in NCR to help people with respiratory issues. Furthermore, Oxfam and Microsoft have worked to “[s]trengthen existing capacities of 12 hospitals with O2/ICU beds and essential life-saving medical equipment such as oxygen concentrators, patient monitoring units, BiPAP machines and nasal masks…” (Misra). By harnessing the power of technology, this partnership has saved lives throughout NCR and promoted a deep sense of trust across this region. 


Oxfam’s partnership with an NGO called Primary Health Centre has also contributed to instilling trust among NCR’s underserved populace. This collaboration has resulted in the establishment of Mobile Medical Units (MMUs). MMUs are “...designed as portable, self-contained vehicles that…provide a range of health care services for populations living in remote, inaccessible, un-served and underserved areas mainly with the objective of taking healthcare service delivery to the doorsteps of these populations” (Public Health Resource Network and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan). The range of services that MMUs can provide are vast. They include, but are not limited to, reproductive, pediatric, diagnostic, and curative services. Each MMU was to have at least five staff-doctors, a lab technician, pharmacist, data entry operator, and driver. In addition, “...each MMU was expected to hold 20 village health camps in a month preferable at weekly/haat bazaar sites, [with] the duration of [a] campsite to be at least 7 hours” (Public Health Resource Network and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan). MMUs were also equipped with a variety of prescription drugs, contraceptives, vaccines, surgical instruments, first aid kits, disinfectant, delivery kits, microscopes, semi auto-analyser, reagents for diagnostic tests, pregnancy detection kits, rapid diagnostic kits, and other related supplies. By providing such resources, the Oxfam-Primary Health Centre partnership sought to establish high trust levels within communities across NCR.

Future initiatives through this partnership can continue enhancing such trust by addressing some prior MMU limitations. For example, MMUs can begin to offer more comprehensive immunization of children, surgical operations, sputum collection, and X-ray imaging services (Public Health Resource Network and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan). Fortunately, a number of successful malaria tests were administered, which potentially saved numerous lives from this disease. Future MMU iterations should continue providing such robust malaria services. Moreover, successful MMU implementation can serve as a foundation for more permanent delivery systems in these underserved areas. Overall, current and future MMU initiatives as part of the Oxfam-Primary Health Centre partnership can continue building trust among NCR’s citizens.

Oxfam’s partnership with The Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) has forged trust across NCR through providing access to vital water reserves and other ecosystem-based resources. WOTR is a not-for-profit NGO. It is dedicated to “...assisting poor, rural communities with watershed restoration projects to combat the degrading effects of recurrent droughts and human pressures on the surrounding land” (Ensor and Berger). Through this collaboration, WOTR and Oxfam seek to achieve these goals by undertaking measures such as land, soil, and water management. They recruit volunteers and staff to engage in “...trench building to control erosion, improve soil fertility, and enhance groundwater recharge; afforestation and rural energy management, such as by banning tree-felling and promoting the planting of shrubs and grass to meet household fuel needs; and livestock management and pasture development” (Ensor and Berger). By sharing and implementing natural resource management expertise, the Oxfam-WOTR collaboration has endeavored to create a significant amount of trust across NCR. In the future, Oxfam may want to consider collaborating with more NGOs like WOTR that have extensive relationships with underserved individuals in NCR. These organizations include, but are not limited to, Mission44Million and The Indian Dreams Foundation, among others. 

Treatment Capabilities for Mental Health and Related Issues


In The Handbook of International Disaster Psychology, Psychologist Gilbert Reyes analyzes the mental health consequences of large-scale disasters and their resulting poverty on individuals living in underserved locations. Dr. Reyes states that people who undergo such experiences are often prone to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and/or a range of other psychological problems (66). This is why tending to their mental needs can be critical. In addition, such calamities may create a demand for related services including counseling and morale-boosting projects (Reyes 2). Addressing the above issues may enable Oxfam to foster trust among individuals who require mental health and related services – so long as they are undertaken successfully. Indeed, the ability of Oxfam to directly address mental health and related concerns among its NCR stakeholders can pose a challenge. In fact, the capacities of most humanitarian organizations to undertake this type of work have been limited (Reyes 67). This can be for a variety of reasons. People with mental health and related issues may not be forthcoming to seek aid due to the nature of their disorder. Moreover, social stigma may impede their ability to request help (Kronenfeld 45). In light of these factors, it can be particularly difficult for Oxfam to address the needs of such individuals and engender trust among them.

Another reason why Oxfam may find it difficult to provide mental health and related services is that it can be harder for it to quantify in concrete terms to potential donors the benefits of such nonmaterial services (Development Assistance Research Associates 54). This may be particularly evident when these efforts are compared against providing more tangible goods such as tarpaulins, tents, basic necessity household kits, and mosquito nets. Nevertheless, the ability of Oxfam to offer mental health and related services seems important to its trust-building capacity among those who need such programming. “Statistics give us the numbers we account for in addressing inequalities, but they fail to convey the humiliation, the hopelessness, the lack of dignity involved. Listening to a family living in absolute poverty it is this lack they speak of” (Robinson 26). 

The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to a mental health crisis across NCR. There is a rampant, increased sense of uncertainty and helplessness due to unemployment and widespread illness. “BMC-Mpower 1on1, a 24x7 mental health helpline, received nearly 45,000 calls in just two months. 52% of the calls stemmed from anxiety; 22% from isolation and adjustment; 11% from depression; 5% from sleep-related difficulties and 4% from exacerbation of previous mental health concerns” (Israni). In response, Oxfam has sought to engender trust among this vulnerable population – especially during the pandemic. Oxfam has endeavored to de-stigmatize the quarantine narrative for underserved people afflicted with COVID-19 across NCR. To do so, it has advocated for the “...need to create spaces for them to be able to connect to the outside world and share their journey to help protect their self-esteem” (Israni). To these ends, Oxfam has advocated for mental health advocates to introduce virtual meet and greet sessions, radio shows, and social media live episodes for people who suffer from loneliness. 

Oxfam has also created a goal to extend mental health support to underserved rural areas within NCR. Since internet access is scarce in such areas, Oxfam has advocated for deploying in-person psychologists and therapists. Interestingly, Oxfam has not only endeavored to assist the mental health needs of NCR’s COVID-19 patients, but also that of its healthcare workers. The “...mental health of overburdened doctors and nurses is often disrupted in trying times like these. Being directly in contact with patients and witnessing loss of life on a daily basis leaves them disturbed and in distress” (Israni). That is a major reason why Oxfam encourages mental health professionals to work in medical care facilities across NCR. In so doing, Oxfam can address the unmet socioemotional concerns of populations in need throughout NCR and gain their trust.

Oxfam has also championed the mental health needs of domestic violence victims in NCR during the pandemic. “The series of lockdowns in India have resulted in a radical increase in domestic violence cases. Home is not a safe space for many women. They are trapped in abusive spaces which impacts their mental health to a great deal” (Israni). Part of the reason for this is due to the fact that many Indian households are structured around traditional familial expectations. Resignation and fatalism among these women occur because “...they often feel there is no point dwelling on such themes since their personal health priorities come after the needs of the men and the children in their families” (Kisana and Shah). Since this issue calls for immediate attention, Oxfam has launched campaigns that encourage women to report domestic violence incidents under the protection of anonymity. In addition, it has fought for gender-sensitive mental health education that promotes mindfulness practices and other forms of positive socioemotional learning. Through these efforts, Oxfam has tried to build a strong sense of trust among underserved women in NCR by addressing their mental health needs. 

Promotion of Local Government Accountability to Citizens 

Oxfam seeks to promote government accountability to NCR residents in two interrelated ways. First, it attempts to ensure its stakeholders’ legal acknowledgment by their governments. This is important because states may not be accountable to those whom they do not recognize. Second, Oxfam encourages citizen participation in political processes that may impact their welfare. Oxfam may be able to cultivate trust among the people it serves in NCR through successfully enacting these goals. 

Unfortunately, “...tens of millions of people – including 70 percent of children born in the least developed countries – lack a legal identity” (Khan 9). One way that Oxfam seeks to bolster government accountability to its stakeholders in NCR with such needs is through advocating for their legal recognition. One of the creative grassroots methods that Oxfam supported to achieve this goal in NCR entailed advocating for identity rights among marginalized populations such as the Dalit caste. People who belong to this caste are known as ‘untouchables’ and are considered to be among the lowest socioeconomic castes in India. Oxfam has described the degradation of such people as a “...menacing form of identity-based conflict…It underlines the need for a comprehensive strategy of development which also takes into account the social fissures as much as the economic ones” (“Demanding Rights, Creating Opportunities”). It seems that Oxfam’s support of such initiatives can increase its trustworthiness in these citizens’ eyes.

In addition to focusing on legal acknowledgment, Oxfam’s government accountability projects throughout NCR include “...supporting civil society partners...who are working to ensure that their governments faithfully follow through on Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (‘EITI’) commitments” (Oxfam International Staff). By ascribing to EITI standards, governments across NCR must publicly disclose their oil, gas, and mining industries’ books and records. Potential benefits for NCR regional authorities that implement EITI’s protocols include “ improved investment climate, increased tax revenue, economic development, governance reform, mitigating corruption and building accountability in resource governance” (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Staff). In order to foster government compliance with these standards, Oxfam partners with Publish What You Pay (PWYP), a global civil society coalition, to support letter writing campaigns, demonstrations, and other activities that address this issue (Publish What You Pay Website). For example, PWYP can use these initiatives to promote the idea that mineral wealth is a shared inheritance in NCR that may benefit future generations. As such, profits from extractive industries should be fully transparent and maximized in ways that benefit the citizens of NCR. Unfortunately, this is not the case. “The IMF estimates a minimum loss of 15% of the mineral value (after all extraction costs and a profit) in the case of oil, and 35% in the case of minerals. In India, we found that losses exceed 75% for coal and iron ore…The very nature of extractive companies means that they have a higher incentive to extract quickly and then leave, making as much profit as possible in the meantime” (Publish What You Pay Website). To the extent that such transparency is achieved, it can make NCR governments more accountable to their citizens. In turn, Oxfam’s support of this issue may propagate trust among its stakeholders.

As evidenced by the preceding paragraphs, Oxfam seems to offer specific ways to enhance government accountability programming across NCR. By publishing a comprehensive document that encapsulates such data and consolidating its reports into a single framework, Oxfam can streamline its efforts to implement this goal. As a result, such literature can help Oxfam cultivate trust among the people it serves throughout NCR insofar as its affiliates and partners actually draw upon it to hold governments accountable to their citizens.

Commitment to Gender Equality

Oxfam’s commitment to gender equality tends to focus on bolstering the engagement of women in civil society endeavors across NCR. This concern is important because “...the position of women…generally lags behind men whether looked at socially, economically, or politically. It needs to be underlined that the position of a vast majority of women…is almost uniformly worse than that of men” (Haynes 141). By devising and implementing concrete plans of action to encourage civic activism for women, Oxfam can potentially build trust among this constituency in NCR.


Oxfam offers specific results of its gender equality programming regarding this issue. For example, one of Oxfam’s ventures in this field is its “Raising Her Voice” program. In accordance with its mission statement’s goal of creating opportunities “…so people can participate in governing all aspects of their lives” (Oxfam International Staff), this undertaking includes a series of on-the-ground training sessions across NCR which educate women on how to best participate in their sociopolitical climate. The evidence is clear that increasing women’s involvement in decision-making processes throughout NCR can result in a better use of resources. For example, Oxfam encourages the equal representation of Indian women in panchayat (village councils). “These structures respond more effectively to community demands for drinking water infrastructure, housing, schools and health services, especially where the elected women are aware of and active in championing the specific issues facing women in their communities” (Brown 15). Equal representation of females in panchayat can also have beneficial implications for reducing corruption across NCR. For example, Oxfam’s research has found that “...households report paying fewer bribes to panchayat with a female leader” (Brown 15). The apparent success of “Raising Her Voice” may increase the levels of trust that Oxfam can engender among these stakeholders.

Oxfam’s work in the Uttar Pradesh region of NCR highlights its emphasis on gender equality and desire to gain stakeholder trust. “Women cultivators and agriculture laborers perform about 70% of all the agriculture activities – yet their valuable contribution is ignored and they are not acknowledged as farmers. A study conducted on the status of women farmers in Uttar Pradesh shows that only 6% of women own land, less than 1% have participated in government training programs, 4% have access to institutional credit and only 8% have control over agricultural income” (“India: Women Farmers Persevere”). Alongside NGOs working with marginalized farmers, Oxfam helped launch the Aaroh Campaign in 71 districts in Uttar Pradesh. This campaign aims to empower women to gain recognition as farmers so that they can ultimately own their own land and therefore access institutional credit and other resources. “Three years of intensive community mobilization is yielding results: some women are gaining ownership of agricultural land in the different districts and 8,000 husbands have shown their willingness in writing for joint land titling” (“India: Women Farmers Persevere”). As a result of Oxfam’s efforts, one woman named Suresho from the Saharanpur area of NCR is now able to  own a hectare of land that can be used for agricultural purposes. Suresho said, “After getting associated with the Aaroh Campaign I became aware of the importance of land rights…” (“India: Women Farmers Persevere”). In fact, owning this land enabled Suresho to obtain a credit card and even secure a bank loan to finance the agricultural operations that she intends to pursue. Suresho said, “I have learnt that nothing is impossible if you persevere” (“India: Women Farmers Persevere”). Her reflection suggests that Oxfam was able to win her trust – and potentially that of the many other women served by the Aaroh Campaign.

It is also important to note that Oxfam’s gender equality initiatives in NCR address human rights violations based on sexual orientation. Consequently, Oxfam can gain the trust of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersexed, agender, asexual, and ally (LGBTQIA+) community. LGBTQIA+ encompasses “...gender and sexuality identities which do not find acceptance in the traditional hetero-normative cultures, but are very much a part of the human gender and sexuality spectrum” (Afroz and Jairath). Oxfam’s stance in this regard is a bold departure from other organizations. “Historically, the international development field has not addressed LGBT issues” (Bhavnani 56). Despite this historical oversight, Oxfam is guided by the “Other Diversity Issues” portion of its mission: “Gender inequalities and other diversity issues will be addressed in our actions and programs” (Oxfam International Staff). 


In its attempts to address the social acceptance of LGBTQIA+ community members in NCR, Oxfam has partnered with Humsafar. Alongside this NGO, Oxfam seeks “ build a supportive network to raise community responsiveness and preparedness to address deep-rooted societal norms perpetuating gender inequalities and violence against women and girls” (Afroz and Jairath). Throughout NCR, the traditional understanding of familial units is defined in terms of a man, woman, and child. Unfortunately, LGBTQIA+ community members are often treated as if they have “ space in the definition of a family” (Afroz and Jairath). In turn, LGBTQIA+ people are often ostracized by their relatives and wider social circles in NCR. People who identify as transgender often face among the worst forms of discrimination. “Not only are they excluded from the education system, they are also unable to take up normal jobs. Even religion considers them as outcasts…[with] no freedom to choose their partners” (Afroz and Jairath). This radical level of exclusion can result in severe physical and mental trauma.

In response, Oxfam’s collaboration with Humsafar seeks to empower marginalized LGBTQIA+ people and secure their trust. One example occurs through sponsoring Pride Walks. These events encourage stigmatized LGBTQIA+ community members to seek solidarity with others who embrace their dignity as human beings. Gradually, negative social norms that ostracize the LGBTQIA+ community are improving through Oxfam’s efforts. One such anonymous LGBTQIA+ community member is optimistic about the present and future of this issue in NCR. After witnessing his traditional family invite a member of the transgender community into its home, he said, “Today the villagers are inviting her and accepting her gifts/blessings, a day also will come when the community will openly participate in her celebrations” (Afroz and Jairath). In light of such a promising turn of events that was fueled by Oxfam’s support of this issue, it is more likely to gain the trust of the LGBTQIA+ community in NCR.  

Evaluation of Organizational Progress


Evaluations are a means through which organizations can gain feedback from both internal and external sources regarding their performance. Such data may help Oxfam become a “learning organization” (Campbell-Patton 175) to the extent that it effectively collects and implements feedback in ways that can best meet the needs of the people that it serves in NCR. In so doing, Oxfam may be able to instill trust among these individuals by offering improved services, eliminating ineffective ones, and/or creating new programs.

Oxfam identifies a variety of structures for receiving and responding to evaluation feedback based upon The Global Accountability Charter for the Non-Profit Sector. “This charter sets out core values and operating principles for international agencies, against which Oxfam gauges and reports publicly on [its] economic, environmental and social performance” (Oxfam International Staff). Such accountability can bolster Oxfam’s trustworthiness to the individuals that it serves across NCR. This may be true insofar as Oxfam improves its programming to comply with this Charter’s values and principles in ways that more effectively serve NCR stakeholders.

Oxfam’s website also offers detailed information about how to file feedback concerning its activities and policies. Specifically, Oxfam states that this information may be submitted in either writing or e-mail form. Yet it is likely that many of its stakeholders who do not have internet access, or who cannot read, may not know about (or even be able to act upon) this policy. For instance, the illiteracy rate across NCR is approximately 13% (National Sample Survey). In addition, NCR internet penetration levels hover at approximately 68 percent (Basuroy). Oxfam is working to provide other vehicles through which its stakeholders’ assessments can be filed. By addressing such oversights, Oxfam may invite its stakeholders to play an active role in its accountability. This could, in turn, foster greater trust among them.

Furthermore, Oxfam’s Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) initiative gathers data to measure the extent to which its interventions result in sustainable changes in the lives of the people that it serves across NCR. “While this report tries to balance strengths and weaknesses, it is driven by learning, so it inevitably focuses more on what needs improvement or requires action. This report aimed to serve internal program audiences; it is shared now, in keeping with Oxfam’s commitment to accountability” (Roper et al.). One of the areas in which Oxfam seeks feedback concerns the relevance of its one program approach (OPA) to issues across NCR. “The one program approach posits that Oxfam will have the greatest impact if it links long-term development, campaigning, and humanitarian assistance, including work on disaster risk reduction” (Roper et al.). To date, the feedback that Oxfam has received with respect to its OPA in NCR suggests that it should collaborate more frequently with local authorities as part of its attempts to gain the trust of community members. 

Oxfam’s MEL also indicates that there has been widespread progress on advocating for women’s rights across NCR. Each year, Oxfam seems to place a significantly greater priority on this issue. To this end, Oxfam sought to establish programming that addressed such gender inequities and power imbalances. “Under other change goals, women’s rights work tended to focus on the issue of women’s participation – either reaching more female beneficiaries and/or increasing their participation in programs, committees, and other public settings” (Roper et al.). For instance, Oxfam’s partnership with Sustainable Food Systems showed significant efficacy in this domain. “Over two thirds of the evaluations reviewed documenting increases in women’s participation, with a subset of those evaluations demonstrating higher levels of agency, empowerment, and/or economic benefits” (Roper et al.). This, in turn, can bolster trust among women throughout NCR in Oxfam.

Many of Oxfam’s programs that are categorized as ‘Gender Justice’ use a MEL-based framework that analyzes the causes of resource and power differentials between the sexes and champions programs to address such disparities. “This framework can be applied not only to gender relations, but also to other characteristics such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, [and] class, any and all of which can be the basis of discrimination. As Oxfam ramps up its work on inequality, the groundwork the Gender Justice team has done may be quite useful” (Roper et al.). Indeed, Oxfam’s MEL process indicates that members of the LGBTQIA+ community continue to experience marginalization which Oxfam’s future initiatives can address. LGBTQIA+ community members wanted Oxfam to assist “...everyone who feels different and aspires to be somebody they are not allowed to be, be it because of patriarchy, or social pressure, or peer pressure…” (Chatterji). In turn, Oxfam can continue to create a safe haven for such marginalized individuals in NCR and instill trust among them.  

Oxfam states that any complaints that it receives via MEL or otherwise will be referred appropriately “ the relevant affiliate or dealt with by Oxfam International staff, and the Oxfam International Executive Director if necessary. Every effort will be made to address and resolve the quickly as possible (preferably within 2 weeks)” (Board Accountability Policies 3). It remains unclear whether Oxfam has the capacity to deal with more urgent complaints in a shorter period of time than two weeks should such instances arise. Oxfam’s stakeholders would likely trust it more should they have their urgent issues addressed in an expedited fashion.

Trust Index #3: Funding Sources 

Oxfam’s funding sources provide financial support that sustains it. Like its mission statement and structure, funding sources can influence the types of programs that an organization sponsors and the ways in which they are actualized. Ideally, the most effective funding arrangements tend to honor “...the donor, the NGO and the recipients as learning partners working from a basis of trust and trustworthiness” (Groves 53). Oxfam tends to receive funding from for-profit corporations. Specifically, Oxfam India has accepted donations from Accenture, Barclays, CISCO, and Philips, among others, to support its initiatives across NCR. There is a seeming dearth of information regarding potential conditions attached to the donations that Oxfam receives. This makes it difficult to assess the repercussions of these funding choices on the trust that Oxfam can engender among its stakeholders.

As a criterion for Oxfam membership, affiliates are mandated to “...typically raise a minimum of 20-50% of their income from their local community in order to guarantee independence from government…” (Code of Conduct 3). This suggests that Oxfam’s affiliates’ financial independence may limit the extent to which their programming is influenced by government funding sources. This is important for Oxfam’s trust-building capacity among its stakeholders. Moreover, it can result in flexibility for Oxfam to tailor projects directly to the needs of those it serves. Upon implementation of such programs, Oxfam may be able to propagate a sense of trust among them. 

Oxfam’s 20-50% minimum requirement, however, technically leaves its affiliates open to receiving eighty percent of their funding from government sources. “It is governments, rather than individual donors, that are most responsible for the recent increase in NGO funding. This increasing reliance on government funding raises questions about the extent to which NGOs are really non-governmental…” (Ferris 317). From this vantage point, Oxfam’s current affiliate minimum requirement may need to be increased in order to effectively ‘guarantee independence from government’ in NCR. Doing so could, in turn, help maximize the trust that Oxfam can instill among its NCR stakeholders due to the aforementioned reasons.

In January of 2022, the Government of India levied a decision to refuse renewal of Oxfam India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration. This means that Oxfam India will no longer be able to receive foreign funds for its initiatives in India. In response, Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India, made the following statement, “The restriction will severely affect our ongoing crucial humanitarian and social work in 16 states across the country. This includes setting up oxygen plants, providing lifesaving medical and diagnostic equipment such as oxygen cylinders and ventilators, and delivering lifesaving food to the most vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic” (Palat). This cut in funding can cause a significant obstacle to Oxfam India’s public interest work with local and national government agencies across NCR. In addition, this lack of funding prevents Oxfam from continuing to build positive relationships based on trust with communities and frontline workers across NCR. 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oxfam has tried to be highly responsive to the pleas of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and endeavored to use the funding that it had received from the government appropriately. In fact, Modi had previously called upon NGOs and civil society organizations to help the Indian government strengthen the health services that it provides and boost COVID-19 vaccination rates. In tandem, The Supreme Court of India also acknowledged the positive contribution that NGOs make when providing pandemic relief. In turn, Oxfam reported that it had used the funding that it had received to collaborate with health departments and various NCR district administrations to provide life-saving equipment for marginalized people who otherwise would not have access to it (Palat). To this end, Oxfam had drawn upon these financial resources to fuel its collaboration with Mission Sanjeevani, one of the largest NGOs in India. Under this partnership, Oxfam “...provided 6 Oxygen generating plants and distributed over 13,388 lifesaving medical equipment such as oxygen cylinders, BiPAP Machines, concentrators, and ventilators, over 116,957 safety and PPE kits, over 9,929 diagnostic equipment such as thermometers and oximeters, and 20,000 testing kits in 16 states. [Oxfam] reached over 141 district-level hospitals, 171 Primary Health Centres, and 167 Community Health Centres” (Palat). Oxfam not only equipped Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers with best practices to serve marginalized populations across NCR, but also provided them with numerous physical resources that they could distribute as part of their work. For example, Oxfam provided ASHA workers “...with health kits to serve over 48,000 people in 9 states who are the backbone of the primary healthcare system. [Oxfam] delivered food rations to over 5.76 lakh people. And made cash transfers to over 10,000 people to the tune of INR 3.53 Crores to help them with their immediate needs during the pandemic” (Palat). The people who benefited from the ways in which Oxfam had maximized its funding allocations included some of the most vulnerable communities across NCR. Many of these people were “...transgenders, sex workers, miners, rag pickers, cancer survivors, survivors of domestic violence, weavers, fisherfolk, construction workers, and those affected by floods and cyclones” (Palat). 

In addition, Oxfam leveraged its funding to offer food, temporary housing, and medical care to flood victims across NCR. To reinforce the negative impact that the aforementioned funding shortage would cause, Behar stated, “The Ministry of Home Affairs decision to deny renewal of FCRA registration will severely hamper these collaborations which were providing relief to those who needed it the most during times of crisis. Over the years, our work has always been in the public interest and guided by the principle of creating lasting solutions to address the injustice of poverty, to leave no one behind, and to end discrimination and create a free and just society” (Palat). In light of these revelations, the imposed restrictions on Oxfam’s ability to access funds will diminish its ability to effectively empower NCR’s public healthcare system and continue building trust within this region.  

In order to protect the sense of trust that Oxfam has endeavored to forge throughout NCR, Oxfam has actively advocated against MHA’s refusal to renew its FCRA registration. Alongside its partners, funding sponsors, and the people it serves across NCR, Oxfam contacted the MHA and urged it to lift its funding restrictions. Oxfam reinforced that lifting such restrictions would help to buttress its trust among stakeholders while ensuring that “...vulnerable communities keep receiving the support they need at this critical time of the pandemic” (Palat). 

Another source of funding that Oxfam can use to fuel its programming across NCR is related to its shops. Oxfam sponsors physical shops worldwide. These storefronts sell many fair-trade and donated items. “A majority of Oxfam’s inventory is derived from public donations but…they still sold fair trade products from developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America, including handcrafts, books, music CDs and instruments, clothing, toys, food and ethnic creations. These objects are brought to the public through fair trade to help boost the quality of life of their producers and surrounding communities” (Oxfam International Staff). Hundreds of these shops are located worldwide. There are also a number of specialist shops that yield extra funding for lucrative items such as bridal wear and furniture. Oxfam has shops in France that tend to sell books and fair trade products such as coffee. Meanwhile, Oxfam’s fundraising presence in Germany boasts 45 shops that include specialty books. Furthermore, Oxfam has two shops in Hong Kong that sell donated goods and fair trade products. Oxfam’s additional shops worldwide are established in Australia, Ireland, Novib, and Belgium. Oxfam is one of the largest second-hand book retailers in Europe and has raised millions of dollars to support its work in NCR and beyond (Oxfam International Staff). To the extent that it channels such resources appropriately on behalf of its stakeholders, Oxfam will continue to secure their trust.

One of the most publicized fundraisers that supports Oxfam’s work across NCR is its Virtual Trailwalker Challenge. “The Oxfam Trailwalker Challenge in India began as a fitness-driven, endurance, team-building, and fundraising challenge…In this, teams of four would take up the challenge to complete a 100 km trail in 48 hours or the 50 km trail in 24 hours” (Gupta). Each year since 2011, a number of corporate teams have participated in this competition. Several celebrities and well-known fitness television personalities across India have participated in this initiative such as Rahul Bose, Milind Soman, Mandira Bedi, Natasha Noel, Harman Singha, and Richa Chadha. “Our physical Trailwalker continued till Feb 2020 until the pandemic struck, after which we had to shift to the virtual mode. We changed the challenge and opened it to individuals to walk 100 km, 50 km or 25 km in 10 days. In the Virtual Trailwalker Challenge, walkers could walk anywhere and at any time” (Gupta). The transition from an outdoor challenge to a virtual one enabled this initiative to continue its fundraising efforts on a much broader scale. This is because participants could now walk anytime and anywhere according to their own scheduling needs. Oxfam’s team “...tweaked the Trailwalker module to make it interesting and exciting for people who had to stay indoors and follow the COVID-19 guidelines…We developed a web application and the backend to manage a virtual event. Now, the thousands of people who take the challenge upload the total distance they have covered during the day on the personal dashboard designed by us” (Gupta). The virtual format of this fundraiser that started in 2020 helped raise funds for NCR’s migrant sector workers who needed to walk thousands of miles to reach their homes due to country-wide transportation lockdowns. In light of this, Virtual Trailwalker Challenge fundraisers not only walk to financially support such migrant workers, but also to honor their significant ordeal, promote equality, and gain their trust.


The Virtual Trailwalker Challenge has become increasingly popular among numerous workplaces in India, especially in the corporate sector. “Over the years, the Trailwalker has turned into a great opportunity for employer-employee engagement and team bonding for the corporate walkers…a large number of…employees would come together to work on the different aspects of the event to make it a huge success” (Gupta). Since these participating employees represented different departments such as marketing, human resources, accounting, communications, and programming, The Virtual Trailwalker Challenge offers such workers the chance to understand and appreciate each other’s work in a spirit of camaraderie. These interpersonal experiences have contributed to The Virtual Trailwalker Challenge’s positive reputation and fundraising efforts on behalf of underserved people across NCR and beyond. In turn, The Virtual Trailwalker Challenge is a key revenue-generator and allows Oxfam to maintain its high levels of programming and trust among its stakeholders.

By prioritizing the rights of such marginalized people, Oxfam seeks to forge a discrimination-free India. In Oxfam’s vision, everyone in NCR and beyond can live a life of dignity, without being plagued by inequity and injustice. To this end, one of the themes of Oxfam’s recent Virtual Trailwalker Challenge has centered upon women’s rights and empowering them to overcome the struggles that they endure. This population has faced severe repercussions as a direct result of the pandemic and NCR’s systemic inequality. “Due to the lockdown and school closures, girls were forced to drop out of schools and in many instances, forced into early marriage. Women were the first casualty of job losses, had increased responsibilities at home, and were also more vulnerable to domestic violence without access to violence services” (Gupta). The Virtual Trailwalker Challenge places a special emphasis on forging trust with women from the most underserved sectors of NCR communities such as Muslims, Dalits, and Adivasis. As a direct result of Virtual Trailwalker Challenge fundraising, Oxfam has been able to help thousands of such women assume leadership roles that otherwise would have been unattainable for them. Behar said, “As we recover from the impact of the two years of the pandemic, it is extremely important that we work to strengthen women’s livelihood, education and gender justice so that they can recover sooner from the pandemic. So it all made sense for us to celebrate International Women’s Day by holding The Virtual Trailwalker Challenge around this time and raising awareness about the same” (Gupta).  

Aside from providing financial assistance, The Virtual Trailwalker Challenge also forges trust among NCR’s citizens by promoting widespread citizen participation and spreading awareness about issues of systemic economic and gender inequality. Behar commented that The Virtual Trailwalker Challenge “...has been our way of telling citizens about our work. They walk alone, with their family, their partners, with friends and colleagues for the cause of equality” (Gupta). In essence, this funding source offers tremendous social capital that forges trust via solidarity, empathy, and positive action. Behar continued, “We have seen our participants opening up with us, sharing their experiences and how compassionate they are to help us empower those who need our support” (Gupta). From this perspective, The Virtual Trailwalker Challenge can be understood as a significant Oxfam-driven movement of people committed to winning the trust of impoverished people across NCR through funding and camaraderie. 

Concluding Remarks

This paper evaluated the socioeconomic trust indexes of organizational mission statement, structure, and funding sources with respect to Oxfam’s poverty alleviation efforts throughout NCR to date. Oxfam’s implementation of such indexes seems to have resulted in some positive progress throughout the region. Specifically, the poverty headcount rate “ estimated to have declined by 12.3 percentage points since 2011…down from 22.5 percent in 2011…Rural and urban poverty dropped by 14.7 and 7.9 percentage points during 2011-2019” (Roy et al. 4). Furthermore, there is progress evident with respect to promoting gender inequality in NCR. Specifically, women and LGBTQIA+ community members have witnessed some career advancement opportunities and greater social inclusion (United Nations Staff). 

The socioeconomic trust indexes that were used throughout this research paper can help guide Oxfam’s future efforts in NCR. Specifically, these indexes may inform questions that field interviewers ask individuals who are directly served by Oxfam. Their responses can help gauge the extent to which they trust it. Furthermore, the indexes that were used in this research paper can have broader applications. They are not necessarily limited to measuring Oxfam’s success in NCR and can be used by other international development organizations to evaluate and improve their programming. In fact, these indexes can even apply to regions beyond NCR. Overall, they may be leveraged to enhance the efforts of international development organizations and cultivate trust among countless marginalized people on a global scale. 


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The author's comments:

Max Mandl is a rising senior at King School in Stamford. He is passionate about the study of economics as it relates to poverty alleviation. As the founder of Inclusive Economics, Max is dedicated to creating an engaged community that promotes equality. He is also an active member of a varsity crew team and enjoys playing soccer in his free time.

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