Oxfam’s Learning Lab on Private Sector Engagement

Oxfam’s Learning Lab on Private Sector Engagement

Engaging with business and the private sector on issues of sustainable development, human rights and accountability is multi-faceted and complex. It requires specific strategies and skills.

Oxfam’s Learning Lab, which took place in Delhi from 28 January to 1 February 2019, was designed as an immersive five-day workshop for civil society actors and organizations from India and Europe to learn from each other to influence private sector action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It brought practitioners working on a wide range of issues related to sustainable development, human rights and business accountability through their diverse experiences of research, activism, influencing, advocacy and partnerships, and learning from each other. 

To ensure that business delivers on the expectations laid out in the SDGs, it is important that civil society groups engage with business to hold them accountable— ensure they do no harm and actively bring positive change in the lives of people through progressive policies. The Lab aims to provide participants with different approaches, tools, skills and networks needed to reframe, plan and drive effective strategies to engage business. 


The Learning Lab was conceptualized using a design-thinking methodology to identify the roles and responsibilities of the private sector in sustainable development. With every participant as a learner and a teacher, the emphasis was on learning-by-doing, through group activities for building models of change. 

The Lab was structured on the basis of the four focus SDGs: SDG 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment; SDG 8 on labour and decent work; SDG 10 on inequality; and SDG 16 on justice, accountability and human rights.

Through the key stages of Empathy, Ideation, Co-Creation, Delivery and Strategy as embodied in the design-thinking method, participants developed their own context analyses, stakeholder mapping, power analyses and communication strategies for their respective SDG groupings. As the first design-thinking exercise on private sector engagement, the emphasis was on providing a framework that is useful for understanding how to put ideas to work and focuses on the different methods and mindsets needed to make change happen at each stage.

A rigorous selection process was applied to ensure a group of committed participants from diverse geographic and ethnic backgrounds. 418 applications were received from 23 Indian states and UTs for 50 spots at the Lab. In addition, 11 European CSO participants attended the Lab.   

Know more about Oxfam India's engagement with businesses to co-create market-based solutions to end inequality.

Private Sector Engagement

We engage with businesses to co-create market-based solutions to end inequality

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