Interview: Tom McLaren, head of campaigning, Action for Children

Kate Youde speaks to the children's charity's first head of campaigning about his role at the organisation

Tom McLaren
Tom McLaren

Tom McLaren became the children's charity's first head of campaigning last year after starting as an internal communications officer in 2006

- What do you enjoy about campaigning?

I really believe in what we do as an organisation. Our unique selling point is early intervention. I am completely and utterly sold on that as a central premise. It's also about finding creative ways of getting complex issues to the general public and other important stakeholders.

- What did you want to change?

To really establish the internal campaigning function. Until three to three-and-a-half years ago, we were almost entirely service-oriented and we took the decision to become a campaigning organisation.

- What is the biggest challenge in campaigning?

As is the case in the rest of the sector, the hardest challenge is going to be getting more for less; trying to squeeze every last drop out of what we've got. I believe that the age of blanket impersonal emails to MPs is over. MPs are now starting to find that wearing. And I think partnership working is going to be a really important thing, what with the recession, the cuts and other charities going to the wall.

- What advice would you give to people looking for a career in campaigning?

If you don't believe in what you are doing - if you don't have a passion - it makes it twice as hard. As a campaigner, you must be able to pass on that infection; you need to be able to drum up passion and support in other people.

- What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Action for Children organised a panel event, which was similar to the BBC's Question Time, called Step Inside Our Shoes. The event was about young people's views on gun and knife crime. It was part of an emotional wellbeing campaign that we organised called Growing Strong. We had five of our young people on the panel and in the audience were the great and the good. It still gives me goose pimples to this day to think about it.

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