Celebrating the best in campaigning

Each year, SMK celebrates the best campaigns and campaigners – whether working locally or nationally, and from individuals and community groups to people working in large organisations. Our interest is in finding those who have made change happen – most effectively, creatively and courageously. This year, winners will receive their award at a special evening ceremony in London on 6th May at the Union Chapel.

Our ten categories and their descriptions are listed below. Nominations for the 2020 Awards shortly. Watch this space!


To recognise a successful campaign that has used digital tools and technology in innovative and powerful ways.

Citizens Do - Cardboard Citizens

Citizens Do is a people-powered movement to tackle homelessness and support people affected by it. After their recent tour of Cathy, the audience was invited to suggest what they as individuals could do to help people who were homeless. The Citizens Do website then sent weekly actions inspired by their ideas – seven in total.

The aim was to create a movement of people inspired to use their collective will to help end homelessness.

Runner Up
Wouldn’t Change A Thing

Wouldn’t Change A Thing want a world in which negative, outdated perceptions of Downs Syndrome are a thing of the past. Their first online video, 50 Mums, 50 Kids, 1 Extra Chromosome, racked up 145 million views in a few months.

Celebrating a campaign that has successfully used the law to drive change - whether using existing legislation to leverage rights and protections or using strategic litigation to strengthen existing or create new legislation. Sponsored by Bates Wells.

Noel Conway v Secretary of State for Justice

Noel Conway, who was diagnosed with terminal motor neurone disease in 2014, has devoted many of his final months to campaigning for the right to choose an assisted death. Noel was lead claimant in a judicial review seeking to challenge the law, which bans the practice in the UK.

Though Noel’s case was ultimately rejected by the Supreme Court, the judgment acknowledged that assisted dying is an ‘issue of transcendent public importance’ and it paved the way for future cases to have an easier passage through the courts.

Runners Up
Times Up’ Strip Clubs coalition - Not Buying It

The 'Times Up' Strip Clubs coalition, which challenged Sheffield City Council’s pro-strip club licensing policy under equality law. And won.

Save Nascot Lawn

The campaign took the local NHS Clinical Commissioning Group to judicial review when funding for their children’s specialist respite centre was withdrawn. Although the centre ultimately closed, the campaign had demonstrated the need for this kind of respite care, which resulted in alternative provision for the families.

Sponsored by

To recognise campaigns that successfully challenge poor or unfair consumer practise, or which successfully promote or strengthen consumer rights and protection. Sponsored by Which?

Recovery Space - Money & Mental Health Policy Institute

Each year, tens of thousands of people in the UK experience a mental health crisis while struggling with problem debt. As fees and charges mount, they also come under pressure from creditors, which can cause acute distress.

The campaign was powered by a 5,000-strong research community of people with lived experience of mental ill health.

The Government is now committed to changing the scheme so that anyone using NHS mental health crisis services gets respite from escalating debts and collections activity for the duration of their care.

Runner Up
Stop the FOBTs (Campaign for Fairer Gambling) - Matt Zarb-Cousin

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals have high stakes and are highly addictive. This campaign slashed the maximum stake from £100 to £2 a spin.

One to Watch
Debt Hacker

Debt Hacker wants to stop payday lenders, and others, profiting from the exploitation of people on the breadline.

Sponsored by

This award recognises campaigns led by multiple partners in ways which are creative, respectful and genuinely collaborative. Sponsored by Frederick Mulder Foundation.

Lift the Ban – a coalition led by Refugee Action with Asylum Matters & over 150 partners

Lift the Ban is calling for the UK Government to restore the right to work for people seeking asylum. People often wait years for a decision on their claim, living on just £5.39 per day.

Lift the Ban believe that people who have risked everything to find safety should have the best chance of contributing to our society and integrating into our communities. This means giving them the right to work so that they can use their skills and live in dignity.

The Labour Party has now adopted this as official policy. And the entire Scottish Parliament also voiced its support, calling on Westminster colleagues to give asylum seekers the right to work.

Runner Up
SJo Cox Loneliness Commission Steering Group (JCLC)

The Jo Cox Loneliness Commission Steering Group (JCLC) continued her work to combat loneliness after her murder in 2016. The Government has since accepted the recommendations of its report, Combatting Loneliness One Conversation at a Time, including the appointment of a ministerial lead for loneliness and the creation of a multi-million-pound fund for loneliness projects.

Sponsored by

This Award recognises campaigns either led by or that give voice and profile to those groups who are least heard. It could be any group within the protected characteristics of age; disability; race; religion or belief; sex; sexual orientation; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; and pregnancy and maternity.

Time for Inclusive Education (TIE)

In 2015, Jordan Daly and Liam Stevenson founded TIE to campaign for LGBT-inclusive education in Scotland. They believe that LGBT history, role models and equalities should be taught in schools in order to tackle prejudice and bullying.

In 2017, the Scottish Parliament endorsed TIE's proposals for LGBT issues to be taught in schools, and the Scottish Government began to work with the charity to develop policy recommendations. In 2018, Scotland became the first country in the world to adopt LGBT-inclusive education.

The ethos behind TIE's work is summed up by Liam Stevenson, who says "the children of tomorrow must grow up without the prejudices of today".

Runner Up
I Am Not Your Villain - Changing Faces

Changing Faces challenged the film industry to stop using scars, burns or marks as shorthand for villainy. The British Film Institute has pledged to stop funding films that do so.

This Award celebrates a successful campaign that has taken place at a local community level. It could be led by one or many but will have led to a change that benefits all of or a significant portion of the local community. Sponsored by LLoyds Bank Foundation.

Save Nant Llesg - United Valleys Action Group (UVAG)

The United Valleys Action was originally formed to meet the threat of a huge mass-burn waste incinerator. Whilst fighting this battle, another threat emerged that had to be fought in parallel – the Nant Llesg opencast coalmine.

The group rose to the challenge and, after three years of campaigning, persuaded the council planning committee to vote the mining application out against the direction of the local authority officers.

The struggle continued when the decision was appealed but, eventually, the mining company conceded defeat in September 2018. This has prevented six million tonnes of coal being mined, along with the damage it would have caused to the community and the environment.

Runner Up
Plastic Free Communities - Surfers Against Sewage (SAS)

This initiative unites and empowers individuals, businesses, local government and community groups to free where they live from single-use plastic. Already, 45 UK villages, towns and cities have reached Plastic Free Community status.

Sponsored by

This Award is all about the little guys. It celebrates individuals or small campaign groups that take on much bigger organisations and challenge vested power. Sponsored by Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.

Guardians of the Arches- Eleni Jones

Eleni Jones ran a motorbike repair shop in a railway arch in East London. Her business was threatened by a rent rise of over 300%. Network Rail was preparing to sell the arches estate, and tenants were being ignored.

Eleni helped set up a coalition of tenants called Guardians of the Arches. After massive publicity and widespread political support, the new owners of the arches have promised to create a tenants’ charter and ‘put tenants first’.

Runner Up
The Stansted 15

Activists chained themselves around a Boeing 767 chartered by the Home Office to deport 60 people. Although found guilty of terrorism-related offences they later received conditional discharges.

One to Watch
Reverse Surrey SEN Cuts & SEND Action
@SurreySENCuts @SEND_Action

Both campaigns were formed by parents opposing cuts to Special Education Needs funding. Surrey has since reversed £21 million of SEN cuts for 2018-2019.

Sponsored by

Celebrating campaigns instigated, delivered and led by a person or people under the age of 30. Sponsored by The Blagrave Trust.

Who We Are - Kenneth Murray

The Who We Are campaign is focused on tackling negative media portrayals of people who are in or have grown up in care. Kenny’s work has received support from well-known authors such as JK Rowling and Jacqueline Wilson. He has also worked with the First Minister of Scotland to raise awareness of the issue.

Runners Up

Right to Sign - Daniel Jillings

The Right to Sign campaign, which was launched in 2017 by the National Deaf Children's Society Youth Advisory Board. It was successful in persuading the Department for Education to introduce a GCSE in British sign language.

Changing Places - Zack Kerr

The Changing Places campaign demanded more fully-accessible toilet facilities for wheelchair users. Consequently, in July 2018, the Government announced £2m to install such facilities across all service stations in England.

Sponsored by

This Award recognises an individual who has provided outstanding leadership to their organisation or community in pursuit of change. Sponsored by Prospectus.

Alfie’s Hope - Hannah Deacon

Hannah’s son, Alfie, suffered from frequent seizures. Hannah took Alfie to Holland to be treated with medical cannabis. The medicine worked, but they came back home in 2018 without knowing how to get him the treatment in the UK.

This started Hannah’s campaigning journey, where she fought for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis use.

Hannah shared Alfie’s story with MPs of all parties, and presented evidence to the Policing Minister. However, it was her appeals directly to the public through traditional approaches and social media that really raised the pressure.

The law was ultimately changed so that full-extract cannabis oil could be prescribed on the NHS. It led to Alfie’s doctor, Professor Mike Barnes, being issued with the first medical cannabis license in the UK.

Sponsored by

To recognise the work and contribution of an exceptional individual who has campaigned over a long period of time.

Patrick Vernon, OBE

Patrick is a British social commentator and activist of Jamaican heritage. He has campaigned around race equality and social justice for 20 years, tackling issues as diverse as deaths in custody, mental health, Windrush Day and adding Mary Seacole to the national curriculum.

Most recently, he has been praised for his perseverance and leadership in response to the Windrush scandal. Vernon created one of the fastest growing online parliamentary petitions ever, which demanded an amnesty for Windrush generation minors. It was signed by over 180,000 people, including journalists, politicians across political parties and church leaders.

Patrick launched The Windrush Justice Fund at the height of the scandal, which raised over £40,000 for independent legal assistance for people affected. Campaigning by Patrick and others led to a Government U-turn on immigration policy and material changes to the immigration system.

As part of his ongoing advocacy, Patrick led a campaign for 22 June to be recognised annually as Windrush Day, a national day acknowledging the contribution of the Windrush generation to UK society. It was officially backed by the UK Government in June 2018.

He is founder of Every Generation Media and 100 Great Black Britons, which creates education programmes, publications and films on cultural heritage and family history. He has been previously awarded for his expertise and work around african and caribbean genealogy in the UK.

Patrick was awarded an OBE for his work in tackling health inequalities for ethnic minority communities in Britain.

  • Winning the SMK Award for Environmental Justice has been an important landmark in my career as a campaigner, as well as for my organisation, City to Sea. I'm personally very proud to have won the award and feel it's been very significant.

    natalie fee
    Natalie Fee, City to Sea, Environmental Justice Award winner 2017
  • Professionally, being able to say I'm an 'award winning campaigner' really helps me have more credibility in what I do. Personally, it has given me more confidence to spread my 'gentle protest' approach to activism and craftivism and it really encourages me when I'm tired or doubting the impact we are having (activism is hard to measure as we all know!).

    sarah corbett
    Sarah Corbett, Craftivism, Economic Justice Award winner 2017
  • Winning the award for our Inside Out Campaign has not only filled our staff and supporters with a great deal of pride but it gives gravitas to the message we are trying to spread through the campaign. Our Inside Out campaign is ongoing and being able to now promote it as a Sheila McKechnie Foundation National Award Winner gives it real kudos. Thank you so much for your support.  

    Shirley Smith, Inside Out, Health Award winner 2016
  • Receiving the SMK Campaigners Award for Transport gave my campaign (#LondonBusWatch) a significant morale boost at a critical time.  Although none of us campaigners do what we do for recognition, to find myself in the company of such an accomplished and energetic group of activists was both inspiring and gratifying.  

    Tom Kearney, London Bus Watch, Transport Award winner 2016
  • The National Campaigner Awards are a breath of fresh air for us; awards where real impact is acknowledged, celebrated and supported in a way that also helped to share knowledge and experience rather than pitting nominees against each other. We were delighted to win an award and it was wonderful to celebrate in the success of all the other winners and nominees on the night.  

    Outlandish, School Cuts, Best Digital Campaign winner 2018
  • UKWIN is honoured by this recognition of the courage of our inspiring volunteers. UKWIN’s members bravely take on, and support each other to face up to, the many challenges that arise when demanding environmental justice for our communities.This award will strengthen the anti-incineration movement’s determination, and I want to thank the Sheila McKechnie Foundation on behalf of everyone involved with UKWIN. We are determined and we are grateful  

    UKWIN, David and Goliath winner 2018
  • We are incredibly honoured to receive this award. We are just one of the many campaigns representing the diverse queer community across the city, who have seen so many of their vital spaces taken away. This award is a recognition of how important this issue is, and that by joining together we can fight back!  

    Friends of the Joiners Arms, Best Community Campaign winner 2018
KarenCelebrating the best in campaigning