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What happened at our first ever Change Network?

During our research for the Social Change Project people told us again and again that they wanted more opportunities to get together with other change-makers to explore how change happens. The Change Network was born and our first ever event was held on 15 November 2018.

Last week, thirty campaigners and change-makers came together to meet, share stories and to hear about an important instance of social change. Our first event looked at the fight for equal marriage, and sought to do so through the lens of our Social Change Grid, which maps campaign activity across four vital areas.

We were delighted to welcome some legends of that fight for change, which still continues today with same-sex marriage still not recognised in Northern Ireland. Peter Tatchell has been campaigning since 1967, during which time he has called out homophobia, hypocrisy and human rights abuses. Baroness Barker is an advocate on many LGBTI and women’s issues and made the decision to come out publicly during the House of Lords debate on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. Benjamin Cohen founded LGBT news site pinknews.co.uk. His Out4Marriage campaign featured videos of politicians, religious leaders and celebrities explaining why they supported changing the law.

Between them, these three powerhouses represent important aspects of campaign activity. Baroness Barker offered insights into how campaigners interacted with the formal power of Parliament, and how Parliamentarians themselves responded. Benjamin Cohen shed light on power of traditional and social media to shift cultural ‘norms’, boost priorities and raise awareness. Peter Tatchell spoke of the importance of the galvanising power of activism and its ability to trigger responses. And, of course, each brought their own experience of this fundamental inequality.

The conversation was filled with stories, personal analysis and insights – a total treasure trove! Luckily, it was captured by Whistledown Productions (who make Radio 4’s The Reunion) who have kindly offered to create an edited version that we can share more widely. Watch this space.

Later, we were joined by Christina, who shared her own call for change – tackling the stigma that women who have been in prison face. She pointed out that in fundamental areas of life such as renting a home, opening a bank account, applying for a job, the assumptions made about women who have served prison time become blocks that both feel and can be insurmountable. She challenged everyone present to question their own recruitment processes, and to interrogate whether their own campaigns represent this group well.

There was time for information-sharing towards the end of the event, with news of training opportunities and calls for support. We even had time to generate our own, on-the-spot word cloud showing how we were all feeling about campaigning right now: the top two answers were ‘inspired’ and ‘hopeful’, but there were also mentions of ‘frustrated’ and ‘tired’.

Sounds familiar? Maybe you should sign up for the next Change Network on Thursday 31 January, for a dose of inspiration and some support from the campaigning community.

Further reading recommended by our speakers:

Equal Ever After: The Fight for Same Sex Marriage and How I Made It Happen by Lynne Featherstone

The Children of Harvey Milk by Andrew Reynolds

(We’ve included links to mainstream book sites but other booksellers are available!)

adminWhat happened at our first ever Change Network?