Since February 2007, a small group of feminist activists working from inside the head offices of international development organisations (bilateral, multilateral and INGO) have been participants in a project to explore how they can encourage their organisations to be pathways of women’s empowerment. The project’s objective is to encourage greater strategic awareness among the policy activists themselves concerning their room for manoeuvre, and secondly to stimulate discussion among others as to how they could optimally support those working from inside bureaucracies. In this paper, presented to 'Pathways: What are we Learning?' Analysis Conference, Cairo, 20-24 January 2009, I explore the challenges facing these feminist activists in building relations for institutional and policy change for women’s rights. Research participants believe that the principal factor in successfully changing institutional arrangements, albeit subversively, is networking and alliances within and between organisations as well as with the wider women’s movement. However, in support of a ‘politics of solidarity’ they want greater shared understanding and trust between feminist bureaucrats and those in other parts of the global women’s movement – in civil society networks and in academic institutions.