The first speaker’s voice barely carries above the hum of the crowd. Even with a microphone, it takes a while for the 200 or so people gathered to notice she’s addressing them.
When she’s done, others climb onto the fountain steps alone or in pairs, reading aloud from notes on their phones. Not understanding the words, I watch the body language: a few hold themselves confidently, most less so. One, clutching a diamanté-embellished phone, tries hard to control a visibly shaking hand.Continue reading “Speaking up”→
‘Imperfect triers welcome’ – that’s the philosophy behind CoGo, an app that helps consumers find ethical businesses. Their website quotes a ‘zero waste chef’ who says, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly”. CoGo echoes this in its message to customers – perhaps trying to show that it’s not preachy and judgmental about our decisions, but rather encouraging-yet-realistic – and therefore open to a much wider consumer base. “You don’t need to be committed to going zero-waste or vegan to join CoGo,” they write, “you just need to be looking to switch some of your purchases over to more sustainable and ethical businesses and in time, hopefully, we can help you increase the % of your spending that goes to businesses that match your values.”
The concept feels apt, partly because I’ve been working on a long feature about how social enterprises can/should respond to climate change, and a key question is whether doing the best one can given limited resources is enough – or whether doing small things just lets us off the hook making radical change. (I don’t have the answer.)Continue reading “Try this”→
I discovered solutions journalism (or constructive journalism) about two years ago – though as it turned out, I was already doing it to some extent. Writing for Devex, my editor had often reminded me to dig for more detail: how exactly were NGOs doing something, and what could others learn from it?
We recently recruited 14 young people from six countries for a reporting programme, and before they’d even met, the WhatsApp group was buzzing. When we did get them together for an intense five days in London, they seemed to form a tight-knit group within 24 hours. By departure day, the WhatsApp group was filling with heart-eyed emojis, group selfies and emotional farewells as they prepared to return to four different continents.
Apart from the emojis, it was similar to an experience I had 10 years ago, when 30 of us from different European countries got flown to Berlin for an EU-funded youth journalism scheme. That short trip led to some of us creating our own joint project the following year – planning it over multiple Skype calls from our respective countries – and a few lasting friendships. (Plus, apparently, at least one romantic encounter.)Continue reading “Group chat”→
Here’s my new more-or-less monthly update: sharing three things – a person, idea, story, event or something else – that have grabbed me and that I think people should know about.
Not exactly brain surgery
Another day, another phone interview. This one stood out though: over a fairly crackly phone line – from an echoing meeting room in central London to a Bangalore hospital – Devi Shetty told me he’d just finished a heart operation and seen around 60 patients that day. “It’s energising”, the 60-something year-old told me. “Where else do you get to interact with that many people?”Continue reading “Surgery, personal obsessions, and artist dates: three things this month”→
At the Impact Collective — the network of social impact consultants I work with — we’ve published a new case study outlining what we did for the national charity The Challenge.
The Challenge describes itself as a national charity aiming to ‘build a more integrated society’. Its founders set up the National Citizen Service, a government-funded programme that brings together 15-17 year-olds from different schools/backgrounds; to date, 400,000 young people have taken part. I met some of them two years ago while facilitating a few NCS workshops in photography/video; the workshops involve not only practising a new skill but also using it to engage with the wider community: elderly people, adults with special needs or young children.
Working with London schools and colleges is one way to appreciate this city’s diversity.
While preparing Exposure’s latest podcast on gender and feminism, participants talked about their family lives, and inevitably got onto discussing how culture and upbringing affects your views of a woman’s role in the world.
It made for an interesting debate: we had one young person who’d grown up in Iraq and Sweden, another raised in Zambia by his grandmother, two with an Asian parent, one Jamaica-born Christian, one daughter of a Rastafarian, another whose dad was Algerian. Continue reading “Talking it out”→
One of the social media groups I use is for freelance women journalists. For all Facebook’s flaws, the group is brilliant: like an open-plan office with none of the irritations and all the companionship of 4000+ colleagues who’ll always deliver on requests for advice, feedback, sympathy, or last-minute contacts. Those shout-outs for contacts appear every day. “Looking for local post offices that still have a resident cat”, writes one. “Does anyone know a media-friendly volcanologist?” “I’m looking for a woman aged 30+ who showers at least twice a day. The more the better.” (These were all real requests. They all got multiple responses.) Continue reading “Cats and volcanologists”→
If it’s easy to start blogging these days, it’s even easier to stop. Or at least to pause.
So many reasons: not enough time (I’ll do it when that deadline is over); other priorities (I need to focus my attention/writing brain on something else right now); perfectionism (there’s no point in posting something mediocre); lack of fresh ideas (there’s nothing exciting me to write at the moment); unconvinced of the payback (it won’t make any difference if I wait a bit longer). Continue reading “Blogger’s guilt”→
Four years ago, I spent a Friday night travelling up and down the Northern Line, filming people trying to talk to strangers on the Tube.
The gathering was organised by Barbara, the sister of a Portuguese friend. Tired of Londoners burying themselves in their phones and ignoring each other, she wanted to create an offline space where people would have real-life conversations. The Tube party was a starting point; I didn’t quite get how her venture, Offline London, would work in practice or who might pay for it. But I liked the concept, liked the people, and thought filming might be fun. (It was. We were buzzing for hours afterwards.)