Email: | Tel: 01227 639768

Tel: 01227 639768

Patrick Olszowski

Patrick Olszowski

Whilst Head of Campaigns and Policy, Stroke Association


Apart from your current organisation which other organisations that campaign do you admire?

Global Witness have brought significant change to the international trade in diamonds and are currently involved in an important case around NGO investigations and data protection.
While they appear fearless in the face of challenge, I am sure there must be moments of abject fear when they are engaging with powerful interests. This is common for all of us who campaign and the key is to use anxiety as a way of learning.

Who is the campaigner you most admire?

The campaigners I most admire are the Greenpeace team who scaled the Shard in London. This bold action helped draw attention to drilling in the Arctic and was a brilliant example of individual bravery sparking storytelling, leading to public mobilisation, brand building and donation.

Is there a campaigning organisation that you would like to see the back of?

Speaking personally, I am not a fan of the record industry lobby. They helped bring in the Digital Economy Act and as someone who firmly believes in the right to a fair trial (this law was proposing to disconnect people from the internet), they would have to be my choice.

What advice would you give someone starting their career in campaigning today?

Before you take action, think about how you want the world to be different and then work backwards from there.
Most campaigning is about relationships, understanding who people are, what motivates them, the constraints they operate under and then (and only then) working out how to shift them from one place to another.

What three things make a good campaigner?

1) Being able to craft compelling stories.
2) Being able to separate people from the power. This is about a cold headed and rational power analysis. Where is the decision made, who makes it, who influences these people, who do I know, who am I going to speak to first?
3) Recognising that changing the world is just as much about fundraising, service delivery and service improvement as it is about public affairs and mobilisation.

Which of these three do you have most of?

My mission in life is to tell compelling stories that create real change. At the Stroke Association my colleagues in the Media and Campaigns teams have been working hard to tell a different story about stroke, to bust the myths:
1) That stroke only happens to older people. Nope, it can happen at any age.
2) That stroke leads to the end of life. Again wrong. With the right support, people can and do go on to recover and make very significant contributions.
3) That stroke is inevitable. Again, if you do just one thing post reading this article, get your blood pressure checked. It might just save your life!
I developed and launched the Life after Stroke campaign, (an integrated public affairs and media campaign) which has led to real world policy wins, changes in the law, a continued priority for stroke, huge media coverage, new supporters and funds.
The really exciting thing is that now this story is starting to gain real momentum, other opportunities are appearing. Stroke has just been featured on Eastenders (one of the characters has had a stroke), we’ve been picked to be the Royal Mail’s charity for the next two years and are finding new supporters all the time.

Which of these three do you think is missing most out of people who campaign or want to?

As campaigners our instinct is for action. We all need to remember to stop, think and analyse where power lies before leaping to action, hopefully, though, without losing our zeal!

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

I think that charity campaigning is going to change significantly. Some charities will be put off by the Lobbying Act, others will see diminishing returns from tired “contact your MP” actions and others will not do enough to tie their work in closely with the wider work of their charity and so lose impact.
I believe the most successful campaigning organisations are already highlighting problems and coming up with answers that are both desirable and financially sustainable. This is often not easy but is essential as campaigning is about DELIVERING improvements in people’s lives.

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

Even if I wasn’t lucky enough to be paid to campaign, I’d still be a campaigner.