Caroline Ashley

Global Director of System Change Programmes, Forum for the Future

By background, I call myself 'socio-economist' - which means I know enough economics to engage in economic thinking and debate, but am always interested in the social and political drivers and outcomes of economic systems.  The common themes across diverse professional roles have been around how we create a more inclusive and sustainable economic system and what counts as genuine impact. I'm fascinated by how citizen engagement, innovation, incentives, policy change, and windows of opportunity create change.

I've worked in international development for 30 years, including 3 years each in post-apartheid Namibia and pre-revolution Tunisia.   Both taught me a lot about how change happens, or doesn't happen.  In over a decade with the Overseas Development Institute, I worked on how the tourism sector - and then business sectors more widely - can be inclusive.  Since then I have worked with challenge funds, impact investors, corporates and social enterprises, promoting inclusive business models.  At Oxfam GB, I led innovative programming to build more just economic systems, focusing on women's economic empowerment and reform of agribusiness value chains.  I've grown my own consulting company, worked for multiple donors and development banks, and had spells in the UK Parliament and US Congress.

One of my first roles, in Namibia, was to bring social equity and economic modelling into the sustainable development strategy of the new Environmental Planning Directorate.  But since then, I have seen environmental and poverty discourses evolve separately not in sync.  Having witnessed how development gains are being wiped out by climate change, I know the imperative of bringing together the best developmental and environmental action, North and South, to shift our global system onto a sustainable footing that works for all.

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