Email: | Tel: 01227 639768

Tel: 01227 639768

Penelope Gibbs

Penelope Gibbs

Director of Transform Justice


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

Policy Exchange – because whatever one thinks of their views, they have succeeded in getting the ear of this government and have influenced policy profoundly. They have championed police and crime commissioners and the breaking of the public sector “monopoly” over probation services. Without them these things might not have happened. I admire them because they are effective, though they probably wouldn’t describe themselves as campaigners.
Citizens UK for campaigning for the Living Wage. They have argued well, got good evidence and successfully used community organisers as advocates. A worthy cause slowly and steadily won, mainly through face to face contacts and meetings.

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

Organisations are getting better but the political space is getting more difficult to influence. MPs and Peers are efficiently whipped and few will defy their party.
E-campaigning has revolutionised campaigning through helping charities to harness the passion of thousands of supporters. It’s a double edged sword though, because the more mass e-mail campaigns there are, the more difficult it is to break through.

Which campaigner inspires you most?

Ray and Vi Donovan’s son Chris was killed by a group of boys in horrible circumstances. Ray and Vi met their son’s killers in a restorative justice conference and felt “free” for the first time in years. They have set up a trust in memory of Chris and tour the country talking about their experience and the power of restorative justice. Ray and Vi truly have created good out of bad.

What three attributes make a good campaigner?

The ability to understand other points of view

What’s the most rewarding or exciting campaign you’ve worked on and why?

The Out of Trouble campaign I led for the Prison Reform Trust was very rewarding. The aim was to reduce the number of children and young people imprisoned in the UK. During the course of the five year campaign, the number of under 18 year olds imprisoned in England and Wales reduced by a third. A sign of true success is that the campaign ended in September 2012 but the numbers have continued to fall ever since.

How do you feel campaigns will change over the next five years?

I hope campaigns will focus less on changing the law. Legislation is very powerful but changing legislation does not necessarily produce social change and vice versa.

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

Be incredibly focussed. Campaigns with vague, amorphous aims tend not to work. Remember achieving your aim is the most important thing. It doesn’t matter if no-one knows who or what organisation was behind a positive social change, as long as it happens.

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

A civil servant. Civil servants have more power to influence positive social change than anyone else in government. But I would need to be able to conform and I’m not convinced I could.