When faced with a list of outstanding campaigners, extraordinary people who’ve made a huge difference to the lives and livelihoods of others, how do you choose which one deserves an award?
The Sheila McKechnie Foundation (SMK) faces this dilemma every year in the run up to their annual National Campaigner Awards. Their task is far from easy, as we now know. This year it was our honour and privilege to join SMK’s judging panels, alongside other sponsors and past winners. When the nominees are all, in their own way, richly deserving of an award, it’s a very tough gig choosing between them.
A few years ago we decided that we would support pro bono one organisation every year. We were inspired in part by Blair Enns’ challenging edict, The Win Without Pitching Manifesto.
Supporting amazing organisations doing incredible things we can’t
Two years ago we rebranded an amazing social enterprise based in Liverpool, Transform Lives Company, or TLC. And we continued to support them when lockdown hit. Last year, like so many creative businesses I would imagine, we answered calls from a few organisations looking for help in uncertain times. Some projects came off, some didn’t. It didn’t matter. We were happy to give our skills and time to help in some way, however small.
And it was during lockdown that we met SMK for the first time. I say “met”. Of course, we haven’t met in real life yet as we have lived a collective virtual existence together, and we can’t wait to meet the team in person. Our journey through their rebrand is shared here. As time went by we realised just what a truly wonderful organisation they are, how they manage to achieve so much with a modest team of sharp minds and generous hearts. And above all, how they champion and celebrate social power.
And so back to their awards. After the initial disappointment of not being able to host their live awards ceremony last autumn, followed by the big learning curve and new found opportunities in organising a virtual one, we supported the team with their awards graphics and visuals.
When the call came this year to ask if we’d support them again, it was a no-brainer. It made perfect sense to choose SMK as the organisation for us to pro bono support this year.
An incredible campaigners’ year
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this last year of all years? I guess one thing is that, in many ways, we’ve become a nation of campaigners. Changing our behaviours, posting our support, and sometimes outrage, in our front windows. Joining our communities to clap and cheer our support for NHS and other key workers. Becoming united around the problems on our doorsteps, communities and around the world.
And it just wasn’t covid that got us active. Black Lives Matter re-ignited us against the latent racism and inequality that people of colour face every day, when we should be well past the need to get angry about it. Political upheaval emphasised difference and alienated us. The pandemic exposed the fissures of inequalities across society, in education, health, housing, justice, mobility, meaningful work, even food. Well-meaning people saying we’re all in this together were rightly shouted down. Those already in a bad place were facing an even worse one.
So, with all this going on, it is all the more impressive that people were able to keep on fighting for their chosen cause. And if something new rattled them, rather than standing by, they stood up, rallied others, made noise, took a stand against injustice, wrongdoing and inequality.
From global headline campaigns like Black Lives Matter to Captain Tom’s fundraising phenomenon, from the neighbourhood revolutionaries like Mums for Lungs to the young people at Bollo Brook Youth Centre in South Acton, people have taken action. They’ve come together to fight for a better opportunities, better societies. Each and every one of them making a huge difference.
Following in their footsteps
As our liberties tentatively return to normal after a devastating year of covid, a year that has tested our resilience to the limit, we are reminded through the National Campaigner Awards that in the face of danger, uncertainty and inequality we each have the power to make a positive difference to protect the lives of those around us. Even from our sofas we can mobilise ourselves and others into action. All we need is the will to do it.
As we rediscover our freedoms, let’s use them wisely and powerfully, finding our own ways to step up and make our communities better, healthier and safer spaces now and in the future. And in doing so raise a new generation of worthy award winners. Choosing between them will no doubt get even harder.
By the way, why not join us at the awards and meet the nominees and winners. Go here to find out more.