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Professor Helen Yanacopulos

Helen Yanacopulos

Profile summary

  • Visiting Professor
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Social Sciences & Global Studies
  • Development
  • h.yanacopulos

Professional biography

Helen received her BA in International Relations from the University of British Columbia. She worked in finance in the corporate and the not-for-profit sectors before returning to complete an MA in Development Studies at the University of East Anglia. Since completing a PhD in Social and Political Sciences at the University of Cambridge in 2000, she has been at the Open University. She has been a consultant for various international organisations, and has acted as Academic Consultant on the BBC productions African School, Syrian School, Comic Relief, the Reith Lectures, as well as the critically acclaimed series ‘Why Poverty?’ and the new 2018 series 'Why Slavery?'.  

Research interests

Helen’s research interests bridge the fields of International Politics and International Development and are focused on explanations of how non-state actors influence poverty and inequality.  Specifically, she examines social justice focused and digitally enabled networks of NGOs, social movements and civil society involved in:  political mobilisation and political action; global justice networks; transnational governance; and the construction and representation of International Development.  Her most recent book (2016) is International NGO Engagement, Advocacy, Activism.  The Faces and Spaces of Change .

Teaching interests

Helen received the ‘Open University’s Teaching Excellence Award’ in 2003.  
She was the Environment, Development and International Studies Programme Director between 2010-2012 and was the Qualification Director for the MSc in Development Management between 2004-2009.  Helen has worked on the following modules:


U208  Third World Development

U213  International Development: challenges for a world in transition

DU301  A World of Whose Making? 

TD223  International Development: Making sense of a changing world

DD213 Environment and Society



T879     Conflict and Development

T878   Capacities for Managing Development

TU871  Development Context and Practice

TU872  Institutional Development: Conflicts, Values and Meanings

TU874  Development Management Project

TU875  War, Intervention and Development

W822   Business, Human Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility

PhD Supervision

Digital activism
International NGOs and social change
Social media and development
Solidarity based action and social movements
Transnational Advocacy Networks
Conflict and Development


Impact and engagement

‘Why Slavery?’ a series of 6 one hour documentaries and 30 online short film to be broadcast in September 2018 simultaneously in an estimated 72 countries. (2017-2018). 

‘Why Poverty?’ a series of 8 one hour documentaries and 30 online short films which were broadcast in November/December 2012 simultaneously in 70 countries. All films are available online at  The films were watched by an estimated 500 million people globally, and have won numerous awards, including the Peabody Award (2010-2012).

‘Syrian School’, 5 one hour documentary series which was broadcast on BBC4 and BBC world. The series won the ‘Japan Prize’ (2010).

‘Chinese School’, 5 one hour documentary series which was broadcast on BBC4 and BBC World. Nominated for a 2008 Broadcast Award in the Best Documentary Series category (2008).

Reith Lectures, Radio 4.  Commented on Jeffrey Sachs’ lectures and organised a public online discussion (2007).

‘Indian School’, 10 half hour documentary series which was broadcast on BBC4 and BBC World (2007).

‘Africa School’, 10 half hour documentary series which was broadcast on BBC4, BBC2, and BBC World.  The series won two ‘One World awards’ (2005).

Comic Relief Big Celebrity Nose Job’, was broadcast on BBC1 and was viewed by 5 million people (2004).

External collaborations

Member of the Governing Council of the Development Studies Association (DSA) - the DSA is the UK’s learned society and professional body for academic teaching and research, policy and practice in the field of International Development.  The Governing Council determines the strategy of the Association (2016-present).  

Executive Board member, Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP) – Member of the Executive Board and Director of Finance and Fundraising.  ASAP is an organisation with a membership of 2,000 academics in 17 country chapters in the Global North and South.  The mission of the organization is to mobilise the influence of academics in order to enhance their positive impact on severe poverty (2014-present). 

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