A summer of campaigns and collaboration...
Over the last months, there have been waves of powerful social founder stories in the media and online, woven into and around both long-standing and brand new awareness events. Personally I've found inspiration and motivation in hearing about these founders and their causes; their often simple but ingenious models of delivering impactful work; their stories, values and vision for the people and communities with whom they work.
Are there too many charities? Too many social impact organisations? Not for me - over the years I've seen new ones come, go, adapt and stay. Some newbies have quickly merged with others, bringing innovative thinking and creativity to old ways; some have died after a burst of light; others, such as Help Refugees, have revolutionised a whole sector, and engaged millions of new supporters, donors and volunteers.
I've been 'wowed' by the range of social impact organisations and groups involved in this summer's awareness events, many initiated by long-standing social founders, but also creating opportunities for new social founders to grow their impact and visibility. This summer's campaigns have been hitting the headlines, driving social change, creating social connections and personal support for individuals and communities around our world.
I honestly cannot think of one example over the last couple of months where I've questioned the founder's drive to set up a new organisation, a new brand. Instead I've been constantly amazed by the brilliant ideas to engage, support and connect communities. Lady Phyll, new kid on the block in the Pride family, just says it all. Read more about her below...
Let's also celebrate how charities large and small, new and long-standing, work together to create awareness and impact, to drive innovation and engagement.
Rather than competing, they are using awareness campaigns to create high impact 'brand clusters', cross-promoting, sharing resources, tapping into wide-ranging and diverse demographics and audiences to generate movements for change. If you want to support a small grassroots volunteer-led refugee project, like our local Team Bananas Supper Club, you can find one. If you want to support a huge refugee charity like the International Rescue Committee (founded by Einstein!) or Refugee Action (founded by the brilliant Reverend Colin Hodgetts MBE) you can't miss them. If you want to march with Pride or Extinction Rebellion, there's a flag to link your cause to. There's something for everyone, and no excuse!
Globally the first ever Face Equality Week was launched in May, followed in June by Pride Month, now 20 years old, linking communities across our planet with a rainbow of activity, campaigning and celebration. Longstanding awareness weeks also campaigned for support for refugees and mental health.
Extinction Rebellion, founded by Roger Hallam, Gail Bradbrook, Simon Bramwell, and other activists from the campaign group Rising Up! has created a global momentum and movement not seen for decades. With powerful leadership, campaigning and engagement, and brilliant communications, we'll be watching them with awe and respect.
Below are just a few campaigns and founders that we've focussed on this month, so do add your favourites (or even the ones you aren't so happy about) to the comments section below. And do join us at our next Social Founder Forum to hear inspirational founder stories and debate founder brand, profile, communications and much more.
Mental Health Awareness Week 2019
In May, the Mental Health Foundation hosted Mental Health Awareness Week, which takes place in the UK and now globally via digital and social media each year on the second Monday in May. The theme of this year’s Awareness Week was Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies.
#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek was a catalyst for many inspiring founder stories, as mental health solutions spring up. Social impact organisations as varied as The Museum of English Rural Life, to Pets as Therapy UK, The Scottish Association for Mental Health, the Ehlers Danloss Society, Mental Health First Aid, Refuge and many thousands more gained profile via the week, including organisations around the world such as Mentally Aware Nigeria and their founder Victor Ugo, or the Poddars Foundation in India.
Debbie Watson, is a new social founder of Wednesday’s Child, a social enterprise determined to make a difference to the lives of those experiencing or caring for someone with an eating disorder.
Debbie has suffered from an eating disorder for over twenty years and says, “Wednesday’s Child’s subscription box is a simple, small aid in the bid to deliver empathy and compassion. It has the power to penetrate that closed anorexic world, and to deliver love and kindness when it’s needed most. Each of the boxes are carefully considered, with all items hand-picked by those who know what it is to suffer, but to have hope.”
Wednesday’s Child also curates Supportive Suppers for those who are recovering to learn to love social situations and the ‘joy of breaking bread’ again, and organises talent matching and compassion coaching, as well as support for parents whose kids are heading off to uni. You can follow them on Twitter here.
During Mental Health Awareness Week we also come upon the story of Amanda Webb, Founder of The Rock Pool, which supports people who are acting as “the rock” for someone with mental illness. After her husband was diagnosed with depression following the birth of their first child, a change in Amanda’s career and the death of her mother, Amanda found herself isolated and in need of someone to talk to.
Unable to find the support she needed, Amanda founded The Rock Pool, a community for Rocks to share their experiences and find support. Read Amanda’s story on The Rock Pool website, and follow them on Twitter here.
The Social Founder Network will be celebrating founders of mental health organisations across the world for World Mental Health Day on 10th October.
Send us your favourite founders if you’d like them to be profiled!
Refugee Week, the UK's largest festival celebrating the contribution of refugees, also took place in May. This year's theme was ‘You, me and those who came before’, exploring the experiences of displacement found in our families, neighbourhoods and histories #Generations.
It was during Refugee Week 2019 that the Social Founder Network came across Saif Ali, founder of Integr8 UK, which enables uprooted people across cultures in the UK to connect, belong and lead an authentic and purposeful life and work experience. Reflecting on his 18-year journey of seeking asylum while at TEDXTotnes, Saif said: “I’m a refugee, yet I carry contrasting opinions about the refugee week. Unless it is about celebrating humanity, potential and compassion, it can store displaced people in dehumanising boxes... A refugee is not an identity it's a life experience”. Follow Integr8 UK and Saif on Twitter
Last year we published a blog profiling incredible social change makers with a wide range of approaches and solutions to refugee crises – from campaigning to providing food; from arts and media to housing; from innovative tech to focussing on young refugees, older refugees, women and families. Check out our blog here.
And we've added some of the world’s most impactful founders of refugee charities to our founder gallery, from Albert Einstein, founder of the International Rescue Committee, to Inderjit Bhogal OBE, founder of the City of Sanctuary movement, Giles Duley, founder of the Legacy of War Foundation, Josie Naughton, founder of Help Refugees and Natasha Walters, founder of Women for Refugee Women.
Enjoy reading about them - surely there are not too many charities nor social founders in this crucially important space?
We'll look forward to your comments below on that question.
Face Equality Week around the world
James Partridge OBE, founder of groundbreaking charity Changing Faces in 1992, is building a new global alliance of organisations campaigning for Face Equality, and has set up a new awareness week to mark this key issue across the world.
The alliance, Face Equality International, marked the first ever Face Equality Week (#FaceEquality2019) this year in May with a week of awareness-raising events, media coverage and social media promoting ‘Face Equality’ — the fair treatment of people with facial and body differences and the elimination of disfigurement discrimination.
Read James' blog, here, and follow Face Equality International on Twitter.
Sri Lanka and UK step out with massive Pride
Each year, people around the work mark Pride throughout the month of June to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which took place at the end of June 1969.
Here in London, 1.5 million people took to the streets in what is estimated to be the biggest Pride event ever to take place in the UK. Thousands of charities, social enterprises and social campaigners gained invaluable profile and support through taking part on social media, and in the march and events.
Sri Lanka, where we launched the Social Founder Network in 2018, celebrated its 15th Colombo PRIDE this year with an incredible line-up of events organised by Equal Ground, the only organisation in Sri Lanka actively fighting for equal rights for LGBTIQ people. Equal Ground's founder & CEO, Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, runs Equal Ground in the face of state and cultural opposition. With each year Colombo Pride is bigger, brighter and more joyful, bringing together a host of other organisations and campaigners to celebrate and campaign. Read more about, and connect with Rosanna in our Founder Gallery and our blog about our Sri Lanka launch.
Lady Phyll - our social founder of the month!
A social founder who has captivated us and quite a few 100,000s more this Pride Month is Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, widely known as Lady Phyll due to her decision to reject an MBE to protest Britain’s role in the creation of anti-LGBTQ penal codes across the British Empire.
Lady Phyll, who will join LGBTQ human rights charity Kaleidoscope Trust as Director in August, is the founder of Black Pride, Europe’s largest celebration for LGBTQ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American descent.
This year’s Black Pride celebration in London’s Haggerston Park attracted massive crowds. You can catch up on all the action on the UK Black Pride Twitter page, and follow the amazing Lady Phyll on Twitter.
Social Founders connect for impact
Please do add your comments, thoughts and founder suggestions below, and please also share this blog, to help our Network grow across communities and countries.
Our next Social Founder forum on 1st October in London will bring together social founders to debate the heady issues around founder brand, profile, engagement and all things communication, inspired by some inspirational social founder stories and speakers. I hope to see lots of you there - book soon to be sure of a place.
Thanks always, Caroline