Contact details


Social media: @fenellaporter

Role: Research Associate,  IGS at LMH

Fenella Porter


I am a teacher and researcher in global labour, international development, gender, NGOs and trade unions, with 20 years’ experience working with development NGOs and women’s organisations and movements at national and international levels.

I was awarded a PhD from the Open University (2005), and my academic background has primarily been in Gender and International Development. For 10 years I taught on the International Development MSc at Birkbeck College, University of London, lecturing on NGOs and convening a module on Development Management, as well as occasional teaching at other institutions such as Warwick University. I have supervised research on both development studies, and labour studies, using a variety of research methods, including feminist research, critical analysis, and engaged participatory research. 

My activist background is in women's movements, working both nationally and internationally. I worked with women’s organisations first in Canada and then in Uganda (with Isis-WICCE: in the mid-1990s, culminating in participation at the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Since then I have worked extensively with NGOs and women’s organisations both in the UK and internationally. I am a member of several professional and activist networks and associations, and I am currently a Trustee of Womankind Worldwide (

I have published widely, as well as presented at conferences and workshops both in the UK and internationally. My publications cover both academic and practitioner spaces, and I continue to pursue opportunities to bridge the gap between these two worlds, with a concentration on praxis and on embedded and engaged research. I am also particularly keen to support students to publish from their own research, either for conference papers, or for working papers or journal articles.

Previous work has included editorial, research and consultancy work with UK-based international NGOs, including Oxfam GB, VSO, and Christian Aid.

Research interests

My current research interests focus on the relationship between labour and development, particularly related to struggles for gender equality and organising amongst women workers in the Global South. I am also interested in looking more broadly at the relationship between labour movements and civil society, and alternative forms of organising. My writing also continues to focus on the construction/destruction of the empowerment narrative in development, and feminist alternatives to the dominant paradigm of development. Recent conference papers include:

 ‘Gendered intersections between international development and global labour: what are the questions now? (A research agenda for a Labour College)’, presented at the British International Studies Association Conference, Edinburgh, June 2016

‘Research and teaching as emancipatory spaces: activism and embedded knowledge’, presented at the British International Studies Association Conference, Edinburgh, June 2016.

 ‘What’s wrong with empowerment? [or Gender and the playdoh model of development]’ presented at the Development Studies Association (Ireland), Dublin, November 2014.


Power and Empowerment,

Other recent teaching: activist and feminist research methodologies, gender and informal labour, development management and practice, gender and development: policy and practice, NGOs, trade unions and social movement unionism.

Selected publications

  • Porter, Fenella (forthcoming 2017) ‘Gender and Development: The discursive landscape of NGO action on gender equality’ in Munck, Ronaldo and Honor Fagan (eds.) Handbook on Development and Social Change, Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Wallace, Tina and Fenella Porter (2016) ‘Feminist Alternatives to the Development Paradigm’, Gender and Development Network Feminist Alternatives pack
  • Gideon, Jasmine and Fenella Porter (2016) ‘Challenging gendered inequalities in global health: dilemmas for NGOs’, in Development and Change, 47:4.
  • Gideon, Jasmine and Fenella Porter (2014) ‘Unpacking Women’s Health in Public-Private Partnerships: A return to instrumentalism in development policy and practice?’, UNU-WIDER working paper 2014/009, Helsinki. A version of this paper also appears as Gideon, Jasmine and Fenella Porter (2015) ‘Unpacking Women’s Health in the context of PPPs: A return to instrumentalism in development policy and practice?’ in Global Social Policy, 16:1, pp.
  • Porter, Fenella and Tina Wallace (2013) ‘Aid, NGOs and the shrinking space for women: a perfect storm’ in Wallace and Porter, with Ralph Bowman (eds.) Aid, NGOs and the Realities of Women’s Lives: A Perfect Storm, Practical Action, Rugby.