Profiles of the Fellows
Charlene Carruthers is a leader and activist from Chicago who organizes through a Black queer feminist praxis. The national director of the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), with a 12-year history as a social justice activist, community organiser, teacher and writer on issues such as developing young leaders, building capacity within marginalized communities, migrant rights, and economic justice. Charlene will use her Fellowship to strengthen and develop relationships between the food justice and land struggle movements in the US and Brazil. Through travelling to Brazil, she will establish strong working relationships and broaden her current network of leaders, scholars and activists. Charlene will lead training on these issues in the US, training at least 100 food justice activists in core organizing skills. To strengthen her own skills, she plans to attend university courses in food studies and undertake an intensive Portuguese language course.
Becky is an Israeli lawyer who runs the “Rights-based Community Practice Centres” in the towns of Sderot and Ofakim. This work focuses on community building, empowering disenfranchised populations through access to knowledge regarding their rights and the development of advocacy tools to promote policy change. She is also the lawyer for the NGO “Rabbis for Human Rights” She -founder of the southern branch of “Itach Maaki,” an organization providing help to women suffering from discrimination and lack of rights. Becky will use her Fellowship too undertake training and study visits to Northern Ireland, Canada and the US to study and learn about approaches to involving disadvantaged communities in social activism, with a particular emphasis on working in areas of conflict.
Craig is an experienced communications professional in the Irish NGO sector, previously working with the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) to harness social media as a driver of communication and engagement with LGBT people and communities, and with the wider public. He was the Social Media Director for the Yes Equality campaign for civil marriage equality in Ireland. Craig will use his Fellowship to examine and document this innovative and highly effective social media campaign. He will critically examine social media strategies for other social movements, create a guide for activists on designing and implementing a social media strategy and develop an online resource for activists and campaigning groups. This will include resources and a toolkit to equip activists to create and execute an effective social media strategy.
Rob is an experienced Foundation executive with over 10 years’ experience as a grant maker in two of the UK’s most prominent charitable trusts (The Paul Hamlyn Foundation and The Carnegie United Kingdom Trust). He is known for leading engaged and collaborative funding approaches to address ‘tricky’ social justice issues, including: excluded young people; mental health service reform; migration and integration; criminal justice reform. By looking at examples in the US and Europe, he will analyse the ways that foundations engage with social change movements. The work will focus primarily on the issue of migration, though learning from other fields will also feature. It will concentrate on the productive relationships that are the basis on which social movements emerge, adapt, and grow their influence. Particular attention will be given to the role that foundation staff play in building relationships with the activists and NGOs who drive the creation of social movements. The study will share learning as it progresses, and aims to draw out practical lessons for foundations seeking to improve their strategic, operational and human relations response to fast moving, complex social challenges.
Alice is an experienced activist from Botswana who has led that country’s Centre for Human Rights (Ditshwanelo) for over 20 years. Alice’s activism has seen her campaign on issues such as violations of the indigenous peoples, sexual orientation and gender identity, the organising of domestic workers and challenging the use of the death penalty. She plans to use the fellowship to reflect on and document her and other activists’ experience and learning of social change work in Botswana and southern Africa. In particular, she wishes to develop an understanding of models of African leadership in the human rights field. Some of the work she has been involved in has been very successful and in some other cases less so but she has never had the time and resources to undertake critical reflection and document the lessons. Added to this she wishes to examine the intersection between academia and activism which was an important element in the anti-apartheid struggle but, she feels, is much less visible now. Alice will produce a report “Leadership Lessons for Social Change” with an analysis of leadership styles and their effectiveness in bringing about social change. This will form the basis for a series of leadership training events for civil society organisations
Brad is a young activist from South Africa who previously led Equal Education, a movement of students, parents, teachers, and community members campaigning for quality and equality in the education system. He has worked on campaigns for textbooks, libraries, sanitation, transport and school infrastructure standards, as well as against corporal punishment, illegal exclusions and school closures. Brad is using his fellowship to research and write about youth activist movements in different parts of the world. He will produce a set of seven case studies, each focused on a different organisation, for use by other activists, focusing on how these movements are organised and utilize strategy and tactics. In addition, Brad will build connections between the activists and movements he studies, and will facilitate opportunities for them to learn and share from each other. A result of this work will be a greater understanding of youth activist movements, the creation of a training resource to guide others who wish to become youth activists, and a network of youth activist organisations.
Palika Makam is an activist and media maker, utilising participatory film and photography as tools for change at the community level. She is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Babel Project, a youth media non-profit organisation that teaches young people from marginalised communities around the world how to use media as a tool for change. Through The Babel Project, Palika has worked with youth activists and organisers from New York, Ferguson, Cape Town and The West Bank, engaging over 400 young people. Issues addressed include: immigration policy and undocumented youth, institutionalised racism within the education system, police violence and community response, and life within a refugee camp. Through the Social Initiative Change Fellowship, Palika will share her skills and experiences in youth media work with four organisations in the US, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and develop her own skills as an organisational leader. All of the outputs will be documented and shared through case studies via a multimedia platform. The platform will function as a guide for other activists, organizers, media makers, development workers, etc. to use participatory video in the field. Palika is particularly interested in using her work to demonstrate how media can be used not only for fundraising and promotion, but also as a tool for building trust, strategic information gathering and dissemination, and most importantly, empowerment.
Saket is a leading community and labour organiser who has spent over ten years working at the intersection of racial justice, migrant rights, and workers’ rights. He has testified in the U.S. Congress, authored reports, built coalitions and led acclaimed campaigns on issues of structural racism, migration, and economic inequality. Saket is the founding Executive Director of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, which was formed in the midst of humanitarian crisis after Hurricane Katrina. In the post-Katrina Gulf Coast, the Center played a critical role in bridging, and building common ground, between African American communities locked out of work, and arriving migrant communities locked into exploitative conditions. He is also the co-founder and Executive Director of the National Guestworker Alliance, a social movement vehicle for international migrant workers seeking to win dignity amidst conditions of forced labour and severe exploitation. Recently, Saket has been a leader in, and a convener of, key conversations across the U.S. about the future of work and the need for a new social contract that is updated to the needs of a 21st century workforce shaped by demographic shift and migration patterns. Saket is leading new organizing and policy efforts that respond to the rise of contingent work and the prospect of long-term unemployment.
Gary is a Methodist minister who has spent almost 30 years working in Belfast in areas at the heart of the conflict. He played a key role in the Northern Irish peace process through his engagement work with loyalist paramilitaries as a voice for them to choose non-violent means to achieve their designated political objectives. He has facilitated negotiations between them, the government and republican paramilitaries. He remains a close and trusted advisor to Protestant ex-combatants and is heavily involved in efforts to support them civilianize. Gary has lectured in political, religious and academic forums globally seeking to engage, mentor and share lessons from the Irish peace process. A particular interest of his is the role of faith in activism. Gary will use the fellowship to respond to requests – locally and internationally – to share his insights and experiences in enabling conflict transformation amongst armed groups and to counter rising religious fundamentalism. The fellowship will enable Gary to share his expertise and learning in range of conflict and post-conflict settings and he will host a number of international groups from areas of conflict in Belfast over the fellowship period. Gary will also publish a series of reflective pieces on conflict transformation.
Deepa is a South Asian American community activist, attorney and writer who has been active in the racial and immigrant justice movements in the United States for 20 years. A former civil rights lawyer in the Department of Justice, she became the first executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national, non-profit organisation. At SAALT, Iyer spearheaded the formation of a national coalition of South Asian organizations and advocated for civil rights protections related to post 9/11 backlash. In 2015, Iyer published a book entitled We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future to document the stories and experiences of MASA communities in the post 9/11 environment. Through her Fellowship she wishes to deepen relations between and reflect on how to strengthen and support more effective social change practices among MASA organisations and advocates in the United States and Europe.
Phumeza and Dustin have been involved with the Social Justice Coalition (SIC) since 2008. Most recently Phumeza has been its General Secretary and Dustin its Deputy General Secretary. Together they have worked to build the organisation into a social movement of poor and working-class people. Under their leadership SIC has undertaken a variety of strategies and tactics including advocacy, litigation, political education, and organising and has become a leading organization in South Africa advocating for poor communities and tackling issues of policing, safety, and the criminal justice system. Phumeza and Dustin, based on their experience, believe that there is insufficient study of and reflection on transformative change processes and on the challenges that leaders and activists face in building mass movements. They wish to examine the particular challenges leaders and activists face in building mass movements and campaigns for transformational change.
Celia is an experienced activist in the peace building and reconciliation field from England. She worked in the states of the former Yugoslavia, has led Conciliation Resources’ work on comparative peace processes, and has managed Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust’s Peace and Security and Northern Ireland programmes. She plans to challenge the current paradigm of militarised security policies that undermine government accountability and restrict rights and help develop an alternative national security policy discourse based on the values of peace, human rights, equality in association with the Ammerdown Group which brings together 20 practitioners, campaigners and academics to work on rethinking ‘national security’. Celia plans to do this by analysing and critiquing existing policies, studying academic thinking in ‘critical security/terrorism’ studies, writing blogs, articles, submissions to consultations, briefing and policy papers. She will also build a rapport with key influencers and develop a communications strategy with a view to building a movement of support for a new approach to security. This will lead to a broader range of individuals and groups being engaged and help create a counter narrative that prioritises peace and human rights.
Irũngũ has 20 years’ experience of public interest activism and campaigning. Former Oxfam Pan-Africa Director for a decade, he now
works with the Society for International Development to support public interest dialogue between citizens and policy makers. The Society for International Development runs campaigns for non-discrimination, protection of public land and anti-corruption in Kenya. He also chairs the Kilimani Project Foundation, a community foundation in Nairobi. He plans to use the fellowship to document and nurture new forms of activism in Kenya. This will support the development of a cadre of emerging activists working to hold state officials to account and ensure that the wider public benefits from public facilities and spaces. Irũngũ believes it is possible to create and support forms of activism that are focused on clear objectives; that maintain strong challenge to the state and elites and stay independent of the highly polarised political parties in Kenya. Through coaching and support and drawing on global experiences he plans to work with Kenyan activists protecting public land and public spaces, including schools and health facilities, and challenge the abuse of public office by officials. Whist a Social Change Initiative Fellow, he will write a book about constitutionalism in Kenya (2010-2015).
Monina is an experienced peace building activist from Northern Ireland, with over 30 years’ expertise in developing and delivering grass-roots peace building, community development and social justice programmes and campaigns. Her work has included anti-poverty campaigns, work with lone parents, and extensive engagement with excluded loyalist and republican communities. She has combined work at the grass roots with roles as a policy advocate and as a funder. She plans to use her fellowship to review previous philanthropic initiatives to promote peace and reconciliation. She will document and reflect on the success and failures of these initiatives with a view to distilling key lessons for the development of future programmes including those in other conflict situations. She will also work to mentor a group of practitioners to implement the lessons from the work. She plans to review the activities of approximately 80 local groups and bring around 30 existing or emerging leaders into a learning and support network. These lessons will be shared through convenings and reports for funders, policy makers and on-going activist campaigns.
Zahra is a human rights lawyer and activist with dual UK and Syrian nationality, working in the field of statelessness, which affects over 15 million people worldwide. She plans to use the fellowship to deepen understanding of the issue of statelessness, challenge discriminatory practises against minorities, women and people with disabilities, facilitate a more robust civil society response and improve the lives of those affected by it. Her particular interests are statelessness in the Middle East and North Africa and the impacts of statelessness and discriminatory nationality laws on women. Through a combination of research, awareness raising and capacity building she will deepen knowledge and understanding of the causes and consequences of statelessness, raise awareness, among activists, the media and the general public, of the impact and consequences of statelessness, create a civil society network of activists and stateless people/groups to work on statelessness in the Middle East & North Africa and build the capacity of actors in the network and elsewhere to be more effective agents for change, by strengthening their knowledge, expertise and contacts.
Phumi is an experienced activist working on issues of economic, gender and LGBTI justice. An internationalist, she has been based in South Africa and Ecuador since the beginning of her political career in 1985. Her work has included organising rent boycotts to combat Apartheid and mobilising against the Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement. She was part of the group of activists that worked to enshrine the rights to equality, dignity and freedom for all in the South African Constitution. As a former Co-Secretary General of the International Lesbian and Gay Association she brought issues of concern in the global South to the organisation, including creating the South-South Dialogue. The fellowship will be used to document the process that led to the strong protections for LGBTI communities in the South African constitution and use this to extrapolate lessons for struggles today in South Africa and other parts of the global South where the example of the South African constitution is so powerful. Phumi’s reflections will be used to help develop young and emerging activists, to shape current campaigns and to inform organisations in and outside Africa about the South African experience. As part of the fellowship Phumi will train young activists on the history of LGBTI struggle, strategising, advocacy; position the issues of LGBTI workers among key public sector unions in South Africa and in social movements.
Opal is a Nigerian-American community organiser, activist, Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) and a co-founder of Black Lives Matter. She has nearly 15 years’ experience in advocacy, innovative communications campaigns and grassroots mobilisation. Through her Fellowship Opal will research and write about the needs and potential strategies to connect and coordinate activists and social movements internationally on a range of human rights issues, particularly as it affects those of African descent. She will combine this with opportunities to reflect on her work and participate in seminars and courses in order to be a more effective transnational movement leader.
Lisa is an activist and academic from a disadvantaged community in Belfast. She has worked with young people, women, minority ethnic groups, ex-political prisoners and combatants across a range of social and political issues including hate crime, reconciliation, physical transformation and social welfare issues. Lisa will use her Fellowship to, undertake a series of study visits, convenings and learning opportunities, and through these, document and reflect on the experiences and approaches of women dealing with conflict in three settings – Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine and the USA. As a result, an international learning and support network for women will be created, publications on practice and policy development will be produced and women will be exposed to new lobbying, campaigning and advocacy strategies. A summative report and conference will be held to disseminate learning, best practice and present recommendations.
Saiful is a photographer, filmmaker, educator and human rights activist from Bangladesh. He has been involved in the student movements in Bangladesh and involved in the movement for the war crimes tribunal of the 1971 war. He is an experienced photographer, filmmaker and human rights activist, with a particular interest in the Rohingya people of Myanmar. The Fellowship will allow Saiful to develop his capacity and skills to better engage on the Rohingya issue. He will share his knowledge and previous work, raise awareness of and advocate on the issue and facilitate a network of Rohingya to document and disseminate information on the human rights challenges they face.
Yashar Kassar is a young Syrian, now resident in the UK. In 2011 in response to anti-government protests in Syria he began work there on educational projects and attempted to create spaces for debate. As the armed conflict erupted he moved his focus to raising money for humanitarian relief and then to working directly in the camps alongside the organisations Syria Relief and Syrian Women Across Borders. He plans to use his Fellowship to identify, train and support a network of 10-14 young refugee activists and allow him to undertake personal development training.
Marissa and Sean plan to use the joint fellowship to improve their skills and enhance their impact as activists. Both have been involved in developing human rights indicators and benchmarks; monitoring government performance; campaigning and lobbying on the issue of housing inequality. Although they have worked on campaigns that have had success in improving living conditions of local residents and for homeless people, they remain frustrated by the lack of systemic change in housing policy and provision. Despite strong equality and human rights provisions in Northern Ireland issues around housing inequality remain. They plan to study and learn from the work of housing rights campaigners in South Africa and the US. They will investigate housing inequalities and housing rights movements there and analyse the similarities and differences in the challenges faced, study the tactics and strategies used, share their experience of participation and rights, and acquire new skills and experiences to improve their work. They have a particular interest in the role of legislation and policy in seeking to address historical inequalities, the impact of this legislation among the groups experiencing inequality, especially women, and how housing rights movements have used policy and law. They will document their comparative analysis of housing campaigns in NI, SA and US, interview key activists and the people experiencing homelessness and inequalities in three housing rights movements in each country and share practices, approaches and tactics being used in housing rights campaigns in Northern Ireland.
Rachel is an experienced activist with over twenty years’ involvement in social change with a track record of innovation and capacity to learn and adapt from others. She has held key positions in Women’s Aid, the Equality Authority, the Equality & Rights Alliance and the Daughters of Charity Community Services. Her work has included training, developing equality focused systems for a range of sectors, co-ordinating a high-level advocacy coalition of civil society organisations, lobbying at national and EU-level, and leading a service delivery organisation. She is also a co-founder of the Values Lab. Rachel plans to use the Fellowship to deepen her knowledge and skills and develop new tools for a values-based approach to advancing equality and human rights concerns. To do this she will explore three interconnected strands of work on communication, institution building and building value based systems in the public sector