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Tel: 01227 639768

Matt Downie

Photo of Matthew Downie

Whilst Head of Parliamentary and Public Affairs at Action For Children

Apart from your current organisation which other organisations that campaign do you admire and why?
I admire organisations and people that have a clear mission, underpinned by compelling evidence, and then have the resilience to stick to a campaign plan.

Pfeg (Personal Finance Education Group) is a great example of an organisation that has achieved specific aims – most recently in getting financial education on the school curriculum – based upon sound evidence and with both social and economic arguments that attract the full political spectrum.

Another example is Afruca, a small but focussed charity who are campaigning to stop the abuse of children through religious practices of branding and witchcraft. Afruca is taking on a difficult area but with clear and compelling evidence of this horrific abuse, and with practical political recommendations.

Generally are organisations getting better at campaigning since you began your career? If so, what’s changed?

I don’t think ‘better’ is the word. The mainstay of charity campaigning has become more professionalised and more of a career choice than a few years ago. This can be a good thing, with recognised skills within the sector, but we must be careful not to lose creativity, individual drive and risk taking.

Which campaigner inspires you most?
I have been fortunate enough to meet a few extraordinary campaigners with public
profiles, including people like Hetty Bower, who is 107 and has spent her life
campaigning for peace.

For me however, it is those out of the limelight that don’t come with the label ‘campaigner’ that I find most inspiring. Last year I met a 14 year old young woman from Croydon who has started a campaign to tackle the trafficking of women and girls in  South London.  She has done this on her own and with no money, yet achieved real policy change in the local area.

What three attributes make a good campaigner?
There are things that you can learn (I certainly had to) such as the basics of strategic planning and how to build meaningful objectives. What I tend to look for now however, are people that demonstrate a commitment to social justice in some way, people who show positivity and empathy in working with campaign beneficiaries, and those with ideas.

What’s the most rewarding or exciting campaign you’ve worked on and why?
I am currently working on a campaign to overturn our Victorian law on child neglect. The campaign is about recognising the devastating impact of emotional abuse upon children. For me, this is not just exciting but vital – and I hopeto be able to look back on the campaign that represented a step-change in the way we view child protection.

How do you feel campaigns will change over the next five years?
The move towards more personal and beneficiary led campaigning should continue, and in time I think large organisations will embed this approach not just in their campaign strategies but within their staff structures. I hope as a sector we move towards campaigns that simply enable those affected by issues to achieve change for others affected by the issues at hand.

What advice would you give someone starting their career in campaigning today?
I would ask them why they want to do it. Is it a particular cause or cohort of people that drives them? The answer to this question can and should direct a career path and ultimately make them more effective as a campaigner.

If you weren’t a campaigner, what would you be?