I was back at the London School of Economics this year, this time in the Institute for Inequality to work with this year’s cohort of the Atlantic Fellows.
If you don’t know this programme already then you should. It’s brilliant. It brings social sector ‘leaders’ (I personally find this work uncomfortable, even after doing the Clore Social Leadership programme, but there you go!) from across the world – almost every continent is represented and they take part in a year long programme to build knowledge of social inequality and how it impacts their work.
The first two days I watched, listened and asked lots of questions of Bev Skeggs talking about financialisation and the care economy, and Erica Lagalisse both from LSE who took us on the division of unpaid and paid work. I was in my element.
In the afternoon we hear from Simon Yull who talked about his fascinating research with Bev Skeggs looking at digital platforms meeting a care need, like care.com or childcare.com – how these sites create and embed inequalities for unpaid and paid carers. We also hear from former Atlantic Fellow Saida Ali on her research looking at where feminist economic analysis or campaigning was taking place across the world.
Day two we heard from Sarah Anderson who came to talk about the national movement in the USA to tackle care inequalities – Caring Across Generations. Having been part of the Women’s Budget Group for over 10 years now I was really interested to see how this multi stakeholder campaign was working at a local and national level and to spend time thinking about what a public facing campaign in the UK might look like.
Camille Barbagallo also spoke about the sex industry and how organising paid carers and sex workers had some astonishing cross overs. It reminded me that we rarely talk about sex work in UK feminist economic analysis and as such we are missing out a huge chunk of women whose work is more moralised, criminalised and marginalised than most.
Finally, Kev Lucas from Unison talked about his inspirational campaign with Unison North East to improve the working conditions of paid carers. It was awesome and terrifying all at the same time. The conditions were so desperate – just another example of how poorly caring is considered, the powers so omnipotent with care homes in the region being owned by faceless conglomerates which the local council and the church of England were investing in for its pensions. How a group of care workers could take on these giant corporations was unfathomable, but they did it.
So to me, what did I actually do? Well on day three we had the whole morning to talk about Campaign Communications. I should have known from the start this wasn’t going to be an easy ride, the fellows are fiercely bright and challenging and the diverse cultural backgrounds meant that there are no obvious agreements on what concepts like ‘a campaign’ even are. So we spent a lot of time talking about what campaigning is, does the word matter? Who are we trying to influence? It was fantastic for me to facilitate this discussion – as always I learnt a whole lot more than I taught! We looked at the framing of messages and how messages of charity or social change are received – but agreed that using framings of ‘hope’ is only one answer to one system and power analysis. We spoke a lot about the type of change that the fellows were trying to make and what sort of campaigns they had run. We considered the challenges of starting with a huge goal such as reducing corruption and wondering how you can use messages of hope to challenge this.
This was really a huge professional highlight for me, it is so rare I have the capacity to listen and learn for extended periods of time as well as contribute and facilitate learning. And to be surrounded by such passion and expertise, well I haven’t stopped smiling since.