Adeela Warley: Giving people a voice can effect change

Good communications can help people to drive solutions themselves

Adeela Warley
Adeela Warley

"When you give everyone a voice and give people power, the system usually ends up in a really good place…" 

Who said this? No, not Mandela or Mother Teresa, but Mark Zuckerberg talking about Facebook’s mission.

For some charities the use of authentic storytelling and people power has propelled their shift away from speaking on behalf of their beneficiaries to working alongside them, amplifying their voice and supporting them to drive solutions for themselves. In practical terms it means working on the ground, active listening, understanding contexts and facilitating a shared ownership and responsibility for change.

At the heart of Save the Children’s Make Childcare Work campaign is a network of parents claiming childcare through the new Universal Credit and struggling with and in the system. The charity helped parents to set up a petition, built their confidence to give evidence to MPs on the Work & Pensions Committee, to meet the Secretary of State and to tell their stories on local news and prime-time TV. The MPs’ report included all of the recommendations from the parents’ testimony and, in January, Amber Rudd acknowledged UC’s failings and announced some small measures to address them. 

By letting go of the brand, not trying to control what people say and providing the right support, the campaign worked. Perhaps its most profound impact was on the parents themselves. According to one of the mum’s WhatsApp posts having met the minister: "Today has been a whirlwind of awesomeness and I couldn’t have asked to have done it with better people. The fact that we might actually incite change blows my mind, but we did it!"

Adeela Warley is chief executive of CharityComms

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