Dr. Vittorio Nicholas Galasso
I have put my
global governance PhD to good use in the service of the global poverty and
justice INGO, Oxfam. In 2012, I came to Oxfam by winning a two-year fellowship
funded by the America Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). The purpose of the
fellowship is placing recent PhDs with institutions and organizations in the
humanities field. Oxfam is one of the few explicitly political organizations to
become a recipient of an ACLS fellowship. At its core, the idea of the fellows
program is bringing together PhD's with organizations seeking to enhance their
research capacities. My fellowship expired this past July; however Oxfam hired
me as a full-time staff person upon its termination.
At Oxfam, I am a
Senior Researcher on issues of economic inequality and governance.
Oxfam is a policy oriented and campaigning organization. We are equally engaged
in the hard work of humanitarian relief resulting from climate related
disasters and political violence (however, I do not work on these issues). As a
policy driven organization seeking to combat poverty and injustice, we require
solid evidence, based in high quality research. My job is providing that
evidence through writing papers, commissioning research (when appropriate) and
influencing the research of large International Financial Institutions,
particularly the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. I also
serve as a public face and advocate for Oxfam’s inequality work by speaking at
events and working with the media.
I am most proud
of influencing how Oxfam is working to address the problem of rising extreme
inequality. As a political scientist, I understand this issue as fundamentally
about power imbalances within countries (and among transnational global
actors). While inequality may look like a problem of economics on its surface
(since we’re looking empirically at how income and wealth distributions are
skewed), the processes producing such outcomes often boil down to rigged rules
favoring some groups and individuals over others. Hence, it is inherently a
and I captured this understanding of the problem of extreme inequality in a briefing paper last January on the
eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The paper became an
overnight sensation because of a staggering figure we calculated for the paper.
Using the Forbes Billionaire list and Credit Suisse’s Annual Wealth report, we
determined that the richest 85 people on the planet have the same amount of
wealth as the bottom half of humanity. It’s a staggering figure (which Forbes
reassessed a few months later and discovered the number was closer to 66 given
changes to billionaire fortunes).
generated more media attention than anything Oxfam had accomplished hitherto.
As a result, I appeared on a couple big cable news shows and was interviewed
for numerous print, web, and radio pieces. Every major newspaper in nearly
every country covered the story of the ‘Richest 85’ stat and the paper. I mention this to
highlight the impact researchers can have when working for large INGOs. Oxfam
has the brand recognition and platform (plus a talented media team) capable of
generating significant attention. Gaining this much notoriety for one’s work
can be more difficult in academia.