My week: Claire McMaster gets all fired up

Claire McMaster has an inspirational week visiting student campaigners, speaking to the judges of the Sheila McKechnie Awards and thinking about the world of possibilities for campaigning on the internet.


I return to the office after a couple of days in Galway, invigorated by sea air and solidarity. Spending a day with local campaigners and another with MA students studying public advocacy and activism at the Huston School of Film & Digital Media at the National University of Ireland was a revelation. Rejuvenated by their passion and creativity, I can't wait to see the results of their plan to collaborate with their film counterparts and develop short campaigning documentaries.


I spend the afternoon with the judges for the Sheila McKechnie Awards - our annual bursary scheme for emerging campaigners. They are trying to pick a winner from a shortlist of four very different and inspiring candidates for the Conflict Resolution Campaigner Award.

We have nine award categories in all, across which we can support a growing number of campaigners. Some are working on behalf of national organisations; others are campaigning in their own time with much more limited resources. We believe that everyone should have access to expertise that empowers them to change their world. This is why we have been making the case to government that the whole community benefits from public investment in campaigning skills.


We are all fired up by Branislava Milosevic, online communications manager at the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, who spoke in London recently on e-campaigning. Consequently, technology has become a theme of the week: we've looked at how we can boost the presence of campaigning on the web with entries on Wikipedia, Second Life and even through plain old PowerPoint.


Campaigning is in the news again as the national media carries widespread coverage of the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act. The campaign to abolish the trade, which lasted decades and necessitated a change in the law, is a brilliant example for contemporary activists. Lest we rest on our laurels, Anti-Slavery International estimates there are still 12 million people in slavery.

At the Commission for Racial Equality, we launched a campaign called All Different, All Equal in the mid-90s. It was aimed at schools and warned students about the dangers of xenophobia, racism and intolerance when history was still taught from a white colonial perspective. How widely known before recent coverage, for example, was the importance to the abolitionist movement of Olaudah Equiano, a former slave who bought his own freedom and sold 50,000 copies of his autobiography in Britain in 1789? Initiatives such as Black History Month help to redress the balance, but we still need to do more.

Claire McMaster is chief executive of the Sheila McKechnie Foundation

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