Founding Director, Craftivist Collective
What do you do?
Everything! But I do also have wonderful volunteers who help at craftivism workshops and events. Plus, when I can, I subcontract photographers, filmmakers and designers to help me turn my visions into the best reality possible.
What job did you want or think you would be doing when you were younger?
I wanted to be an artist, carpenter and run ‘Corbett’s Cosy Café’ on the weekends.
Who in the sector do you admire the most?
So many! The Godfather of the UK charity sector Duncan Green obvs. The fearless Control Arms Director Anna Macdonald. The ‘Thoughtful Campaigner’ Tom Baker. My Scouse Shero Margaret Aspinall of the Hillsborough Family Support Group. The mighty Micah M. White who is a pioneer and critical friend to campaigners globally. If I had to pick one person it would be Ann Roach (IDAT) – she is everyone’s “nin” (i.e. grandmother) in West Everton where I was born and grew up – she continues to campaigns tirelessly for justice where structures and systems are stopping people fulfill their potential in our patch and I often ask myself “What would Ann do?” when I get stuck.
What are the three most important attributes needed to do your job?
I call my approach to activism ‘gentle protest’. It’s not weak and passive but about loving and encouraging activism. I would say to be a Gentle Protester you need: 1) To be mindful of the baggage you bring to your activism (whether that’s preconceived views on those directly effected by injustice or those in power) so you don’t let your baggage fog your strategy or cause barriers with those you are trying to engage. 2) Eye for detail – remember that language can be just as violent as physical actions, colour effects our emotions, even fonts can sway people. Be intentional in every element of your campaign from the way you greet people to sending them a follow up thank you letter for their time. Detail matters. 3) Act out your vision – if you want a more beautiful, kind and just world then make sure your activism is beautiful, kind and fair otherwise your campaign is offering opportunity for people to discredit your campaign and cause.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
I’m going to be cheeky and say two ‘rewards’: 1) Knowing that I helped challenge and change systems of injustice and oppression sometimes in a big way and sometimes small way alongside others. 2) Receiving messages online or in handwritten letters from people who say that they didn’t think they “fitted into activism” as shy, burnout, introverted or differently-abled people until they saw from my work that they could also do activism in a quiet, gentle, slow or introverted way that is just as valued and useful as other forms of activism.
What advice would you give someone starting their career in a role similar to yours?
I don’t know any other full time craftivists and I had no idea I would be in this role so that’s a difficult one. But to anyone who wants to be a full time activist I would say do the tough, unglamorous work you won’t get any praise for at the beginning (and throughout your career if/when you can) but lays strong foundations for your future work. e.g. find a way to mobilise people to be at Parliament in Robin Hood Tax outfits giving out fake newspapers to politicians going into work 7am, go to meetings of those directly affected by injustices if you can (or read their stories), listen at the back and ask how you can help them not stand at the front and talk at people. Do everything you are asking supporters to do from meeting your MP to engaging with drunk people at festivals in your muddy wellies. Be mindful of slipping into the obvious campaign formulas without questioning them but also be aware of doing ‘wacky’ things for their own sake that don’t actually help your campaign.
What is the best thing that you’ve been a part of during your career?
I loved helping to shape and deliver the DFID-funded Platform2 programme, which engaged 18-25 year olds from ‘disadvantaged’ (I hate that term!) backgrounds in global poverty and campaigning. As a craftivist I feel privileged to lovingly challenge the charity sector (and the charity sector graciously listening) to offer more ‘gentle protest’ approaches within the activism toolkit to supporters and helping many organisations do just that in the charity sector and the arts sector. Such as offering slower forms of activism actions to engage more deeply and critically in the complexities of social justice, creating objects to provoke not preach at people on and offline about injustice, framing campaign asks using positive psychology elements and even offering gifts to power holders to encourage them to use their power for good rather than annoying them where possible. I am very grateful to still work with the charity sector: It’s a safe space to question and challenge each other in a respectful way because we are all part of a common cause.
What do you think is the biggest challenge faced by organisations like yours in the present day?
Boring answer but money: My work is about helping people transform into effective activists & campaigners not just to support Craftivist Collective campaigns but also other issues they care about locally and globally and help them think holistically about their impact as a global citizen. I purposefully don’t offer quick transactional actions that are easier to measure quantitative data because I think as a sector we are missing out on deep and critical engagement with people because it’s harder to measure that qualitative data. But grant-givers and individual donors often want evidence of quick and media-worthy wins which stunts the potential impact campaign organisations like mine can have that are less tangible but just as important. (IMHO)
Aside from your current organisation, which other organisations do you admire and why?
Greenpeace for always being a catalyst for conversation on issues that are often not in the news until Greenpeace shine a creative spotlight on them, ShareAction for their quieter activism that is often behind the scenes but has had life-saving results. Fashion Revolution for their what I call their ‘intriguing activism’ model that engages fashion-lovers to ask #whomademyclothes directly to brands via social media – their positive, non-judgemental and curios approach to activism attracts the audience the fashion industry is highly influenced by – the fashionistas!
If you weren’t doing the job that you are doing currently, what do you think you would be doing instead?
I’ve been an activist since I was 3 (squatting with my parents and community to save local social housing in Everton – which we won), my degree focused on social change through religions and theology and I’ve only ever worked in campaigning and public engagement so no one would employ me! I was a shop girl from the age of 13 years until my first proper salaried job in the charity sector so maybe I could go back into that? In the near future I would maybe like to teach creative campaigning at universities (I do that ad hoc at different uni’s around the world) but only if I could continue to be a practicing campaigner too. Activist for life for sure!