Brendan Cox: Save the Children’s young veteran campaign chief

By Eliza Villarino 12 October 2011

Brendan Cox, director of policy and advocacy at Save the Children UK. Photo by: personal collection

Brendan Cox is gearing up for a big year. The veteran campaigner plans to focus Save the Children’s advocacy on the role of hunger and nutrition in child mortality.

Cox has honed his skills as Crisis Action executive director and U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s special adviser for the 1-Goal campaign. He is one of today’s most influential development leaders under 40 in London.

Devex is recognizing 40 of these young London-based trailblazers in international development. They are social entrepreneurs, government leaders, development consultants, business innovators, advocates, development researchers, nonprofit executives, philanthropists and investors.

We asked Cox about his leadership and vision for development cooperation in the years to come. Here’s what he said:

What was your approach to building partnerships that enabled you to expand the reach of Crisis Action so swiftly during your tenure as executive director?

Any single organisation that thinks that by working alone they can achieve the scale of change we need in the world is dangerously deluded. I strongly believe that we as a sector are best when we build integrated movements. What Crisis Action did — and does — so effectively was to subsume its own identity to make those coalitions and alliances work. Its second secret was it also worked with coalitions of the willing rather than a set group of veto wielding members meaning it could consistently hit the highest common denominator rather than the lowest.

What steps are you taking to make advocacy a pillar of Save the Children’s work?

Save the Children recently restructured to put advocacy, campaigns and policy in one division. This gives a great platform to ensure that not only are we delivering excellent programs that save the lives of children, but also help us learn the lessons from our experience and campaign to make the shifts in policy that will lead to that change becoming sustainable.

You’ve spoken out on issues from education and health to trade barriers and aid commitments. What are your top short- and longer-term campaign goals for Save the Children?

Top of our list is improving child survival. 20 years ago 12 million kids died every year. That has now dropped to 7.6 million. This shows the size of the opportunity and the reality that we can end this scandal once and for all.

But for me, the fact of its achievability and the progress we are making make even more grotesque the fact that 7.6 million children still die entirely unnecessarily from causes we know how to prevent. So we’re going to keep the pressure up, inspire people by the potential and outrage them by the injustice. Next year we’re focusing on the role of hunger and nutrition as one of the main drivers of child mortality.

Read more about the Devex 40 Under 40 International Development Leaders in London.

About the author

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Eliza Villarino

Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.


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