Activism

28 inspiring campaigns and campaigners to make you believe change can be won in 2023

Feeling jaded and cynical? Take a look at these campaigns and recharge your batteries

campaign

Efforts to reduce the impact of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts act have been recognised. Image: Extinction Rebellion

With soaring prices, insecure homes, and a sizzling planet, the headlines are full of evidence of the world getting worse. Take a step back, however, and there’s always hope.

Often behind the scenes, an army of campaigners are getting their hands dirty to make sure progress happens. The Big Issue loves to celebrate the communities and activists who fight for a better world – but we’re not the only ones.

A set of strivers have been recognised through the Sheila McKechnie Foundation’s National Campaigner awards.

Named for trade unionist and campaigner Sheila McKechnie, the foundation champions the role of civil society and “social power”. The nominations recognise people changing society. But they also serve as a reminder of what’s possible, and the difference you might be able to make.

If you’re in the mood for even more inspirational changemakers, check out our annual list of 100 people and groups – The Big Issue’s Changemakers.

We’ve run through the 28 nominees, from those changing laws to battling against bus cuts.

1. We’re Right Here: the campaign for community power

With talk of levelling up dominating the national political conversation, it’s not just regions but communities who want to take back power. Demanding a “Community Power Act” to let locals shape their reality, the We’re Right Here Campaign is aiming to take on inequality, loneliness, mistrust, and local decline.

The campaign argues a Community Power Act will “unlock” the potential of communities.

“Our campaign for community power is growing from strength to strength. We believe that our best chance of bringing about the change we want to see is by delivering a campaign which is rooted in local areas and led by community leaders, but which draws on the incredible talents of our national partners,” said campaign leader Sacha Bedding.

@right_hereUK

2. The Police Bill Alliance

The controversy over arrested protesters at he coronation has quickly shown the pitfalls of the government’s policing legislation, thanks to the Public Order Act. But before that came the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act.

Alongside a street protest movement under the Kill the Bill banner, the Police Bill Alliance collected campaigners to put pressure on politicians. Made up of Liberty, Quakers, Bond, Friends of the Earth and Friends, Families and Travellers, the alliance had about 100 active members.

Although many of the most stringent anti-protest measures in the bill became law, the alliance not only raised awareness of the bill’s impact through lobbying, but contributed to the House of Lords stripping out some powers, including protest-related stop and search.

However, many of these subsequently became law as part of the Public Order Act.

@libertyhq

3. Diverse5050 Campaign

In Wales, just one woman of colour has ever been elected to the Senedd. For those hoping to find their interests accounted for in politics, a lack of representative politicians can be a barrier.

Diverse5050 is pushing to change that in Wales. It managed to get the Welsh government to commit to legally-binding gender quotas in the Senedd, but is continuing to campaign to ensure this is carried out. Made up of groups including EYST Wales, Race Council Cymru, WEN Wales, and the Electoral Reform Society Cymru, it also wants to ensure diversity in candidate selection processes.

@WENWales

4. Reclaim These Streets

After the murder of Sarah Everard, Reclaim These Streets (RTS) organised a vigil, but were told by the Met they were likely to be fined for holding the event during Covid regulations.

RTS decided to cancel the official vigil, which then took place anyway – leading to a scandal over heavy-handed police tactics.

The four women took the Met to court, which ended with the Met being found to have acted unlawfully. The Met was also denied permission to appeal the ruling, with a judge saying they had submitted “selective and misleading analysis” of the initial judgement.

@ReclaimTS

5. Legally Safer Universities

Universities do not have a statutory duty of care to their students. And after years of outrage and pain over student suicides, bereaved families have joined forces to push for systemic change.

Following on from a campaign from the family of Bristol student Natasha Abrahart, other parents are now trying to get the law changed. Forming the LEARN Network, they want universities to be legally accountable for how students are treated.

@TheLearnNetwork

6. Attempts to Stop Rwanda Deportation

The government’s plans to deport migrants to Rwanda were met with widespread outrage. But despite Suella Braverman saying it would be her “dream” for flights to leave by Christmas 2022, not a single flight has left.

That’s thanks to a series of court cases. One of those was brought by solicitors at Wilsons, whose case ended up before the European Court of Human Rights.

@WilsonsLondon

7. Gangs Matrix case – UNJUST UK

The Gangs Matrix is a secretive database held by the Met Police, filled with people designated as “gang nominals” and the criteria including those who have been victims of crime. Almost 80 per cent of those on the list are Black.

Those on the list were unable to find out whether they are on the watch list. But after a battle to discover if his name was on the list, Await Suleiman took the Met to court and won a ruling which found the Matrix was discriminating against people of colour.

As a result, people will be able to find out if they’re on the list, with any refusals reviewed by the Information Commissioner.

@UnjustUK

8. Securing a confidential enquiry into the deaths of Asian and Asian British babies

Asian babies are 1.6 times more likely to die than white babies in the UK. Why?

Sands, the charity which works to prevent babies’ deaths and support bereaved families, led a campaign for a confidential enquiry into the deaths of Asian and British Asian babies to get answers.

An enquiry was announced by the government in March 2022, with findings to be published in December 2023 – the same time as another inquiry into the deaths of Black and Black British babies.

@SandsUK

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9. Birmingham Fair Housing Campaign

Launched by Shelter in Birmingham, this campaign aimed to uncover the extent of the housing crisis in the country’s second city.

Aiming to amplify the voices of those affected by the crisis, the campaign has met with politicians to lobby for change. Since the start of the campaign, Birmingham City Council has declared a housing emergency.

@BHAMFHC

10. #StopTheFlights

Alongside other efforts in the courts, the #StopTheFlights campaign pressured airlines which were taking part in the government’s Rwanda deportation scheme.

Survivors of torture spearheaded the campaign, and protested at football matches and at Spanish airline Privilege Style’s headquarters. As a result, the airline pulled out of the scheme.

@FreefromTorture

11. Parks are for Children and Not for Profit

When a group of 300 Shrewsbury residents found out their local park was being sold off, they decided to fight back. It was a fight that went all the way to the Supreme Court. And they won, with the court quashing the planning permission in March 2023.

@GreenfieldsThe

12. How accessible is your local train station?

Nathaniel Yates, who has cerebral palsy, has a very simple goal. He just wants to be able to access all of Greater Manchester’s 96 train stations.

Starting in 2018 with a petition, he’s since met MPs and even got the train with Manchester mayor Andy Burnham. His local station, Reddish North, has secured funding to install lifts by 2025, and 11 stations in the city are up for funding for step-free access. But Yates wants to go further, and is campaigning for every station to be accessible.

@SaysNathaniel

13. Rent Freeze campaign by Living Rent

The rent freeze in Scotland didn’t come out of nowhere. Campaigners had been pushing for years, growing public pressure by getting tenants together.

By making tenants’ voices heard, Living Rent ensured the Scottish government couldn’t ignore the situation. A rent freeze was announced in September 2022, and has been extended until March 2023.

@Living_Rent

14. The Community Energy Revolution

If the Local Electricity Bill becomes law, residents will be able to purchase electricity generated locally. Fuelling your toaster from the wind turbine down the road, that kind of thing.

Being pushed by the Community Energy Revolution, the result could mean a tenth of the UK’s electricity comes from community renewable energy. So far, they’ve won the support of 318 MPs from across the political spectrum.

@Power4PeopleUK

15. Windrush Against Sewage Pollution

River pollution is blighting the country, and a group of Oxfordshire residents have decided to do something about it. Enlisting data scientist Peter Hammond, the Windrush Against Sewage Pollution group investigated the extent of sewage dumping into the river Windrush.

Their research was used to take the water regulator to court, and sounded the alarm on an issue growing in political prominence.

@WindrushWasp 

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16. Forgotten Fish

Fish can feel pain and fear, the evidence suggests. But they are not protected in law like other farmed animals, despite being killed in their millions for human consumption.

Animal Equality has been fighting to change this. As a result of their work, the Scottish government has introduced compulsory welfare inspections in fish slaughterhouses. The group continues to work with the Animal Welfare Committee to ensure further legal protection for fish.

@animal_equality

17. Young Food Ambassadors – Feed the Future Campaign

You don’t have to be a seasoned campaigner to win change. Saffron and Yumna, supported by the Food Foundation, acted as ambassadors calling for all children receiving universal credit to also get free school meals.

As well as public support, they’ve influenced politicians, boasting of playing a part in Sadiq Khan’s decision to give all primary school children in London free school meals. But they want to go further, and are campaigning nationally.

@Food_Foundation

18. Faustine Petron – Make It Mandatory

One in four women will have experienced violence from a partner by the time they reach their mid twenties. But less than half of 16-19 year olds will receive information on domestic abuse and controlling or coercive behaviour, according to Refuge.

This is why the charity, in conjunction with Faustine Petron’s Make it Mandatory campaign, want to make Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) compulsory past the age of 16.

Drawing on her own experiences, Petron created a petition which has been signed nearly 100,000 times.

Her push continues, with the aim of saving lives through education.

@RefugeCharity

19. Ahmed Alhindi – Our Grades, Not Visas

When Ahmed Alhindi received three unconditional offers to study computer science, he might have thought a university education was just around the corner.

But visa conditions meant he could not pursue the offers as he had not been in the country long enough to qualify for tuition fee payment – and so Alhindi started the Our Grades Not Visas campaign, aiming to fix the system for Scottish universities.

Currently, young people must have lived in Scotland for seven years to become eligible for funding.

With the support of politicians and local groups, he took the Scottish government to court. The Court of Session found the current system breached young people’s human rights, and the government is now working on a consultation to change the law.

@ognvcampaign

20. Pinar Aksu

PhD student Pinar Aksu runs MIN Voices, a group in Glasgow which helps those seeking asylum.

Her campaigns include Lift the Ban, which aims to allow asylum seekers to work, and a campaign for an extension of concessionary travel to asylum seekers.

“The road to creating a humane immigration system needs compassion, love, unity, and solidarity. It needs to have human rights at the centre so that individuals can be seen as people before any other given labels. I am proud of all the change we have created as a community – from Kenmure Street to saying No to the Illegal Migration Bill,” Aksu said.

@pinar_aksu5

21. Jason Evans – Factor 8

Jason Evans’ father died when he was four, having contracted HIV and Hepatitis C from infected blood products. As the director of Factor 8, Evans has campaigned for justice for the victims and families of the contaminated blood scandal, which has claimed over 3,000 lives. A public inquiry was announced in 2017, to which Evans gave evidence in 2021.

Beyond interim payments, Evans wants complete compensation for victims and bereaved families.

This week, it has been reported that compensation for the scandal could reach £10 billion.

@Factor8Campaign

22. Judith Neptial – From Me to You

In 2018, Judith Neptial was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer and told she had only a year to live. She decided to challenge this, do her own research, and went into remission after seeking out alternative treatment.

Along the way, she discovered healthcare disparities among Black African and Caribbean people with cancer, and decided to do something about it. She started From Me To You, and has worked with Macmillan Cancer Support to help others use their voice with their treatment.

@FromMeToYouAos

23. Scrap the Act: Homelessness is not a crime

For 200 years, the Vagrancy Act criminalised rough sleepers. Through an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, homelessness charity Crisis worked with peers and MPs to bring an end to this.

The amendment passed, but the change is actually yet to be implemented. The Vagrancy Act is still in force, meaning over 1,000 people have been arrested since it was supposed to be scrapped.

There are also fears the Vagrancy Act may return in all but name with the government’s new anti-social behaviour action plan.

@crisis_uk

24. BSL Act Now

Although British Sign Language had long been recognised as a language by the government, it did not have legal status. The British Deaf Association (BDA) spearheaded a campaign to change this.

Thanks to Labour MP Rosie Cooper and Chloe Smith, the minister for disabled people, a bill made its way through parliament and the British Sign Language Act came into force on June 28 2022. To build on the success of the bill, the BDA has launched a 10-year campaign to make sure it improves the lives of Deaf people in the UK.

@BDA_Deaf

25. 4 Day Week Campaign

The four-day week. It’s very…European, isn’t it? The UK doesn’t do ‘siestas’, and we certainly don’t do frivolous days off (except when someone new gets to wear the crown).

If you’ve come across that mindset before, you may have noticed it’s fading away. The four-day week is being adopted by British workers and companies alike, and may be a reality sooner than you think.

4 Day Week Campaign is leading the charge, and getting results. Over 120 organisations have been accredited to have a shorter week, and the world’s biggest four-day week trial involving 3,000 workers at 60 companies. One day shorter, but with no cut in pay.

The results were overwhelmingly positive – nearly every employer decided to carry on after the trial ended.

@4Day_Week

26. End Our Cladding Scandal

Grenfell exposed the dangerous cladding conditions faced by residents across the country. But years of failures have resulted in costs falling on leaseholders.

End Our Cladding Scandal has been applying pressure for the government to fix this by bringing a solution to the building safety crisis.

Although progress has been made with the Building Safety Bill – with Michael Gove putting the onus on housing developers to find funds and unveiling a £5 billion fund – campaigners are still not satisfied.

Nearly six years after the fire, the impact of the crisis is still felt by residents, and End Our Cladding Scandal continues to push for further action.

@EOCS_Official

27. Keep Channel 4 Public

Government plans to privatise Channel 4 were opposed by hundreds of thousands of people. Coordinated by petitions site 38 Degrees, they made their voices heard. Ad vans, petitions, briefings to MPs, and tens of thousands of responses to a government consultation helped pile on the pressure to keep the broadcaster in public hands.

And in early 2023, the plans were scrapped.

@38degrees

28. Bus Alliance

London is one of the few places in the country where getting the bus is actually a viable option. And so the Bus Alliance has pushed to get more people using the mode of transport in the capital.

In particular, it’s also been lobbying to keep bus routes open and to make sure the big red boxes are priorities. They claim to have influenced the decision to save 18 bus routes from closure.

@LonTravelWatch

The Big Issue’s #BigFutures campaign is calling for investment in decent and affordable housing, ending the low wage economy, and millions of green jobs. The last 10 years of austerity and cuts to public services have failed to deliver better living standards for people in this country. Sign the open letter and demand a better future.

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