What makes ORG different

Since 1982, Oxford Research Group has been building trust between policy-makers, academics, the military and civil society. Along with our internationally recognised consultants, we combine detailed knowledge of global security issues with an understanding of political decision-making, and many years expertise in facilitating constructive dialogue.

See the About us page for a brief description of the organisation and the way we work. More detailed information is available below:


About the organisation

Oxford Research Group (ORG) is one of the UK’s leading advocates for the non-military resolution of global conflict. We combine in-depth political and technical expertise with many years experience in promoting serious analysis, dialogue and change. On an incredibly tight budget we manage to project alternative thinking on current security dilemmas to the broadest and most influential constituencies.

Regardless of what current projects we work on, our long-term goals are always the same: to encourage and promote a deep shift in the way that people think about security, based on the understanding that lasting security is not attainable through military means. Developing long-term ‘sustainable security’ for everyone means understanding the root causes of conflict, and promoting dialogue rather than confrontation as the means to a truly secure world.

A core team of senior consultants lead our work, united by a common philosophy. We carry out and commission research into realistic non-military alternatives to current security orthodoxy. We publish and disseminate our findings through reports, seminars, consultations and private dialogues. Our practice is to make accurate information available so that open public debate can take place. We also seek to foster dialogue between policy-makers and their critics, to help build bridges of understanding as a means of developing new ideas and making possible significant policy shifts. We work in partnership with many other individuals and groups, and the media, to magnify our influence with key constituencies.

We have played a key role in opening and sustaining dialogue between decision-makers in government and civil society. Our reports have been influential in shaping major policy debates. Our meetings have facilitated breakthroughs in creative thinking and the forging of new relationships. Our partnerships have magnified our influence with decision-makers and opinion formers.

Established in 1982 by Dr. Scilla Elworthy, ORG is a registered charity and a public company limited by guarantee. In 2003, ORG was awarded the Niwano Peace Prize and in April 2005 The Independent newspaper named ORG as one of the top 20 think tanks in the UK. Peace Direct, which grew out of ORG’s conflict prevention work and became an independent NGO during 2004, was named ‘Best New Charity’ at the Charity Awards 2005.

Under its current Director, Dr. John Sloboda, ORG has retained its fundamental values but has developed new areas of activity, which have led to a heightened public profile for the organisation, as well as a move from Oxford to London.

Many groups publish studies, convene symposia, and promote their own solutions to international security challenges. ORG, however, has its own distinguished contributions in this field that set it apart… It has successfully lured opposing sides in major international controversies into productive Track II sessions. It has taken principled positions without allowing itself to become an instrument of partisan politics. It has contributed to the education of a younger generation, whose leadership will be indispensable in addressing the security challenges ahead, both new and old. It has also sensibly preserved a core of experts who together provide exactly the kind of institutional memory needed to frame enlightened policy recommendations. Through such capabilities, ORG has gained the respect of governments and groups in civil society throughout the world.
Henrik Salander, Deputy Director-General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sweden

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How we work

The dialogue approach we take to our meetings and residential consultations has come to be known as 'The Oxford Process'. Developed by ORG over 25 years, this approach brings together decision-makers with their critics in a safe and structured environment. With the support of skilled facilitation, bridges of understanding and relationships of trust are built, as a means of opening up new ideas and developing practical and realistic ways forward.

Photo of Charney Manor
Charney Manor, the Quaker Retreat and Conference Centre
in Oxfordshire where many of ORG's UK-based off-the-record
consultations take place

These consultations typically bring together government officials in senior decision-making positions, and independent specialists with a high level of expertise in military strategy, political affairs and international relations - with specialists in other disciplines, such as psychology, philosophy and the arts - in order to address specific areas of conflict in a systemic and multi-dimensional way. They are not academic conferences. Presentation of position papers is kept to a bare minimum and there is no plenary formality. This dialogue process enables policy-makers to step outside their formal positions and concentrate instead on their real interests and concerns. The Oxford Process is predicated on the understanding that it is through the building of understanding and empathy, and by addressing the underlying causes of conflict, and issues of human security cooperatively through dialogue, that real change can come about.

It recognises that the way in which dialogue is conducted - the kind of environment created and the communication methods used - may profoundly affect the outcome. Many dialogues result in disappointing outcomes because insufficient attention has been paid to what might be getting in the way of progress. For productive dialogue to take place, for example, we have to understand what motivates both ourselves and our interlocutor and uncover the hidden and often unconscious assumptions upon which we base our views.

The Oxford Process offers a way for individuals or groups with different value systems, and very different interests and concerns to gain insights into their own and others' positions and fears, and discover shared ways of bringing about change. It does this by creating a culture of listening, under skilful facilitation, which encourages participants to move outside familiar ways of thinking and to put themselves in each other's shoes. This leads to a richer quality of genuine dialogue and a deeper level of understanding, offering the best possibility for change. For more information, please visit the Developing Dialogue page.

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Guiding principles

Dialogue. We believe that dialogue, diplomacy and negotiation can resolve many conflicts more effectively, and with far less cost, than military approaches. We foster deep listening between those who disagree to seek ways forward, bringing together a broad range of opinion and expertise – political, legal, psychological, military and journalistic.

Respect. We consider that attention to the quality of human relationships is key to any successful activity we undertake. This includes deep and respectful listening to those who do not share our views.

Prevention. We believe that most violent conflicts could be prevented by the application of proven and cost-effective non-military methods, which address the root causes of conflict, uphold international law, and respect fundamental human rights.

Pragmatism. We aim to be ready to propose practical and achievable steps that can be taken in response to immediate threats and crises when they arise, while endeavouring to anticipate and warn of the likely results of current security policy decisions.

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Programmes of work

Although our short-term projects vary from year to year, according to current events and what we are able to secure project funding for, we achieve coherence by ensuring that all our projects address the key issues that inform our work over longer time periods. These key issues, which are revised regularly, are:

Global Security for the 21st Century. This programme contains projects which focus on security threats that are global in their causes and impact. The solutions to these threats will require fundamental shifts in the way that organisations, governments and peoples think about, and legislate for, war and peace. Central to this programme is an ongoing critical analysis of the current ‘war on terror’ which shows how acutely the current approach to security is failing, and how it is in danger of distracting world leaders from the far more deadly and unavoidable threats posed by climate change, resource competition, poverty and marginalisation, and global militarisation. Linked to this analysis are a range of initiatives to shift thinking towards non-military conflict prevention, and the protection of innocent life.

Human Security and the Middle East. This programme applies a human security lens to the multiple and interlocking issues that bring nations and peoples into conflict in the Middle East region, as a fundamental current flashpoint of great risk to global security. The premise of a human security approach is that no political or strategic goals can be pursued that ignore basic human needs for safety, well-being and livelihood. People on the ground, and their legitimate aspirations, should come before all other political or strategic considerations. We work on two primary implications of this approach. First, in negotiations, a way needs to be found of allowing all voices need to be heard and respected. Solutions which exclude significant constituencies are doomed to fail. We provide forums in which groups who disagree may begin to build dialogue and find common interests. Second, in military interventions, those who plan and execute them need to find ways in which operations protect, respect and include local populations, rather than alienating them. Our work with Western militaries offers contexts in which fresh thinking can be undertaken about what is to be learned from mistakes made in recent interventions.

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Funding

We are entirely funded by charitable grants, individual donations and, more recently, by peace programmes within international institutions such as the European Union and NATO.

Around two thirds of our financial support comes from trusts and foundations in the UK and USA. Major recent funders include:

  • Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust
  • Ford Foundation
  • Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation
  • Sigrid Rausing Trust
  • Ploughshares Fund (US)
  • Funding Network
  • Network for Social Change

The remaining one third of our income comes from individual supporters and one-off donations.

We only accept sources of funding that allow us to retain our independence and integrity.