James was from 1985 involved in early communication responses to the HIV pandemic and was part of a team at the Panos Institute to provide the first ever public analysis of the threat posed by HIV to developing countries (AIDS and the Third World, 1986).
Later, as Director of Panos’ HIV/AIDS Programme (and then Executive Director) he played a leadership role in assessing the role of communication in HIV prevention, publishing various reports on the issue and organising in 2001 the IX UN Communication for Development Roundtable which brought together leading UN, bilateral, academic and practitioner organisations to reflect on why communication strategies had not been more effective in preventing HIV/AIDS.
James was part of a 1997 Bellagio Conference on Communication and Change which led later to the foundation of the Rockefeller Foundation supported Communication for Social Change Consortium of which he later became Managing Director.
He was a lead organiser of the Bellagio Symposium on Media, Freedom and Poverty (2003) and the Bellagio Conference on Communication and the Millennium Development Goals (2004). He has attended six Bellagio meetings including a 2009 meeting which led to the foundation of the donor collaborative, the International Accountability and Transparency Initiative.
More recently, he has been (with BBC Media Action colleague Caroline Sugg) a lead organiser of a Debates in Change.
He currently has overarching management responsibility for BBC Media Action’s 40 strong research and policy team, and directly manages its policy engagement which is substantially as part of a DFID £90 million 5 year grant to support BBC Media Action’s work