In my spare time, with European Alternatives I had helped set up a network of young people to run festivals in 10 cities across Europe. I found myself travelling every month and finding a space where I could be both an activist and a creative.
Over that decade, I’ve moved south with my girlfriend to West Norwood, where there’s a thriving & entrepreneurial community. I’ve had four jobs, working for Kent’s cross-sector strategic partnership as transformation lead, leading Lambeth’s cooperative council programme, becoming Ealing’s head of strategy & performance and now at Camden. I learnt how to work with Conservative-run and Labour-run councils, shire counties and metropolitan boroughs, strategic commissioning authorities and cooperative councils, and yet the most important factor that has distinguished each of these isn’t any of those things, it’s the culture of the place.
I’ve run several more festivals with European Alternatives and helped it grow from running in London to ten cities and a fully fledged organisation & employer, while helping a new generation of people run it and be able to make a living through working for it. While it was always the vision to create the infrastructure to help it become sustainable, reducing the proportion of EU grant funding to more funding from foundations, less ad-hoc projects and more social infrastructure like the School of Transnational Activism, Talk Real TV or the Rebel Cities network. As it’s become more sustainable, I’ve got more involved in my local community than before through West Norwood Feast and Incredible Edible Lambeth and local networks like the Local Government Innovation Network.
What I’ve learnt is that I’ve always tried to
- Experience different types of activism or making change
- Create platforms for people to grow social infrastructure
- Reflect on where I’m best placed to act
and…test all kinds of different ways of bringing people together, some of which I’ve mentioned and many of which either didn’t work or were short lived that I can’t even remember!
What did you do 10 years ago? What have you learnt? What would you do differently?