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Journalists should contact the Sheila McKechnie Foundation on 020 3752 5642.
Name: Sarah Robinson
What do you do? I am Assistant Director of a climate communications charity, Hope for the Future. We support everyday people to have effective conversations with their MPs about climate change. Our hope is to generate a momentum which will see every MP in the UK advocating climate mitigation.
How did you get into this work? My undergraduate degree was in psychology and I took particular interest in the topic of Environmental Psychology. This looks into peoples’ relationship with the natural environment, including why people might know about climate change but not act upon it. I got chatting about my dissertation to the Chair of Hope for the Future at the end of a church service who said they were looking for a part-time administrator. Three years down the line and I’m now assistant director!
What are you most proud of? How quickly the charity has grown and how much we have learnt in the past three years. It is run on the passion and energy of a small, dedicated team which is slowly growing.
What sustains you? The belief in what Hope for the Future is capable of.
What does social change mean to you? To me, social change is enabling every voice to be heard so that everyone has the opportunity to make their mark. It is a collective movement towards a better world for all.
Name: Marjorie Ellis Thompson
What do you do? Communications, campaigns and strategy for good causes
How did you get into this work? A combination of, seeing the Sound of Music aged 8 and wanting to know the history behind it; circulating a petition to save baby seals aged 9 or 10; collecting for UNICEF and March of Dimes (disability charity) as a child; and wearing a Prisoner of War bracelet
All these things took place against the backdrop of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. Children were very aware of them from the nightly news, the papers and magazines at the time.
Going on a 20 mile ‘Hunger Walk’ for global charities to prevent hunger and malnutrition aged 12 or 13; doing a high school project on the overuse of euthanasia at the dog pound; running a campaign for my college to divest itself of shares in companies that were in South Africa; and accidentally working on a US nuclear submarine base in Scotland and realising there were 134 US bases in Britain for which parliament had ceded control under the 1954 visiting Forces Act (still secret). The rest is history (or already in the public domain).
What are you most proud of?
What sustains you? A genuine interest in and curiosity about people of all cultures and countries; an unswerving belief in fairness, equality and justice; finally creating a home and learning how to cook in my 30s!
What does social change mean to you? Simply, making things better; standing up for what is right, and not being afraid to do so; and empowering others by equipping them with the tools to take action for themselves, i.e. confidence, self-belief, an understanding of legislative procedures and how to be an active citizen
Name: Stephanie Leonard
What do you do? I am the founder of Act Build Change an online training support site for change makers. We provide anyone, anywhere access to the training and support they need to community organise – for free.
How did you get into this work? My grand-mother, Nanny Leonard, had a big influence on me. An Irish immigrant, my Nan would call out wrongs, fight for people in her council block and not take the racism she and her children experienced lightly. On winter mornings she would make sandwiches and hot drinks for homeless people, cycling them down before work and collecting the flasks on the way back. My Nan has little money but a wealthy heart and taught us all to be brave, grateful and generous. I look through the world with the eyes she shaped for me, so I believe I was always going to end up here, in justice work.
How I came to be the founder of Act Build Change, was after working in justice work for over 5 years, I grew frustrated with the lack of access to training and support for everyday people. Training that is so vital in changing the world, is often expensive, academic and based on privileged relationships with funders and charities. The people who need it most, often get left out. I believe the more people who have access to this learning and support, the more likely we are to achieving peace and justice in our world. I am building Act Build Change for everyone.
What are you most proud of? As a community organiser, I’m most proud of leading the Citizenship campaign for Citizens UK. Working with young people and others, we secured a new Deputy Mayor for Integration in London, who will support 80,000 young Londoners access their right to Citizenship. Now, as an educator and facilitator, I’m most proud of building Act Build Change. The site, recently launched and we are already reaching audiences and subscribers from all over the world. Folks from the UK, US, New Zealand and Europe are accessing the training for independent learning and to support their organisations. People are also reaching out to inform and shape how we grow and develop over the coming year. It is a very exciting time for us, and we hope you subscribe and get involved too!
What sustains you? A deep love, curiosity and belief in all people and our planet
What does social change mean to you? Social change to me, is when the people themselves decide what they want to change and are given all the opportunities to be successful in making it happen. My role is to listen and share with them everything I know, in terms of training, support and social-networks, so that they can lead in this work and win.
Name: Katja Leyendecker
What do you do? I co-chair Newcastle’s cycling campaign newcycling.org
How did you get into this work? Feelings of injustice and inadequacy not getting heard or addressed. Coupled with a huge power differential that opened up. I have written more in detail about my story.
What are you most proud of? To have found others who experience the same inequalities, for us to have found each other and be working together and supporting each other. And having given consistent advice to Newcastle decision-makers for more than seven years.
What sustains you? Observing the passion, creativity, intellect and ingenuity of others, seeing new campaigners grow to become an even louder voice for spatial justice.
What does social change mean to you? Born from a clear vision of a fairer world, to collectively aim and collaboratively act towards a better tomorrow.
Name: Mike Zeidler
What do you do? I’m a facilitator who runs two change-maker networks and the Happy City Initiative
How did you get into this work? It’s getting to be a long story of change! Sailing from St Lucia to Australia in 1991, I saw the things that left me determined to ‘make a difference’ with my life, fired up with a passion for preserving our environment. All I had was a gift of the gab and a bit more confidence than is probably healthy. I skipped through roles in PR and fundraising before landing a role as a kind of facilitator at the Chamber of Commerce in Bristol. My job involved bringing the public, private and voluntary sectors together to look at the furthest horizons we could find about the challenges the city was likely to face in the future. We’d then form partnerships around practical projects to address these for the benefit of the city as a whole. This experience has informed the next 17 years of my work, leading to the creation of the Happy City Initiative, now causing a global stir thanks to the efforts of hundreds of academics, designers, lawyers, consultants, entrepreneurs and volunteers. Together, we aim to perform a heart transplant on the economic system, replacing diseased GDP Growth with measures of Wellbeing.
What are you most proud of? Finding the courage, support and energy to persist in developing the Happy City Initiative against the odds.
What sustains you? I do my best to offer loving support as best I can wherever I go – the payback is wonderfully overwhelming. In work, I get most of my energy from fellow enthusiasts, but the greatest encouragement comes when people suspend their disbelief or drop their cynicism and become excited by the possible.
What does social change mean to you? I think social change is what happens when cultural conventions are shifted or overturned by a critical mass of new understanding. When enough people think enough differently ‘the norm’ automatically adjusts.
Name: Ijeoma Moore
What do you do? A multitude of things because I love keeping busy. My day job is as an operations assistant at the amazing charity Just for Kids Law. Aside from that I work as a campaigner for the youth-led Let Us Learn campaign. We work on equal access to higher education for all especially those from migrant backgrounds who are unable to access student finance. I also work as a Youth Right Trainer at Coram Children’s Legal Centre.
How did you get into this work? I kind of fell into this work, it started off after I was referred to Just for Kids as a client, then I became an ambassador and not long after Chrisann Jarrett established the Let Us Learn Campaign. It was vital for me because I couldn’t access university myself due to my status which was upsetting, I felt like I was alone but being a campaigner changed all that. I wasn’t alone and there were so many people in my situation, more than I could even imagine.
What are you most proud of? I’ve been able to accomplish so many things I never thought I could do. I have told my story of self to many people, even an audience of 6,000 at the 2016 Mayoral Hustings. Just recently, I was able to write a blog for Unlocking Detention.
The one thing I am most proud of was the victory at the Supreme Court in the Tigere case. It really showed me what the power of young people can do.
What sustains you? The drive for change and a better future for the next generation. My Let Us Learn family is also another big driving force, support and uplift each other.
What does social change mean to you? Social change means fighting for what you believe in and really trying to make that happen, even in the face of adversity.
Name: Edward Bowman
What do you do? For almost ten years I’ve worked for the John Moores Foundation. I encourage groups to create local networks of expertise and support that is essential to community work. I support them to work more effectively with other organisations and help their communities, to become more engaged with the forces that affect them. Mutual solidarity helps groups keep track of the big picture, share information and provide cross area training and removes the sense of isolation that workers, both paid and unpaid, can feel.
How did you get into this work? I didn’t know it at the time but it began with my mother who ran Play Schemes on Scotland Road in Liverpool during the 1970’s. In the 1990’s I moved back to the area I was brought up in. One day I went looking for a friend to help me decorate my new flat, I was told he was at a Communities Against Poverty conference. I went there with no other intention than to ask for his help and 8-hours later I had been elected on to a steering group for Communities Against Poverty. The rest as they say is history.
What are you most proud of? The communities I’ve worked alongside are what I’m most proud of. They have achieved wonderful things for example such as campaigning to have school clothing grants issued as a giro so parents could get the uniforms from other shops/markets than the four named in the old voucher system. Another group ‘Our Youth Matters’ supported young people through a twelve month social action programme and into fulltime employment.
I am also proud of my involvement in a campaign to create a private sector land lord register of good practice. The campaign called if your landlord is ruthless you could end up roofless worked with Liverpool City Council to highlight good and bad practice and put pressure on private landlords to join our register and sign up to a good landlords charter.
What sustains you? People and their ability to do good alongside the audacity of hope.
What does social change mean to you? Social change to me is supporting individuals and communities to be the change they want to see in the world. A Resilient Community is one were individually and collectively we have the widest understanding possible of the ‘three S’s’ Safety Significance Solidarity: Significance (I/we matter I feel my views are listened to and acted on); Safety (Physically and safe to speak out); and Solidarity (I/we feel supported – they family/friends/community will stand alongside me/us)