08
Sep
Tani Fatuga

Can social media facilitate social change and political action?

Posted by Tani FatugaTagged , , , ,

Since around October last year, Nigeria has been in a state of political crisis due to citizen revolt and ongoing protests regarding the #EndSARS campaign. The campaign began, intending to end police brutality in Nigeria, but has since expanded to challenge some of the country’s other issues such as corruption, poverty, and injustice.

Being of Nigerian descent and having family and friends that currently live in Nigeria, the #EndSARS campaign has been a huge topic of conversation, especially in light of the Lekki Bridge Massacre where dozens of peaceful protesters were murdered by the government on 20 October 2020. These events led me to start thinking of the key role that social media played in Nigeria’s #EndSARS movement.

Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed the powerful effects of the internet and social media. Similarly to how social media was used in the Arab Spring, during the #EndSARS movement, Nigerian activists used Twitter (and other social media platforms) to raise awareness, mobilise protesters, and discredit government propaganda through real-time information and citizen journalism. The campaign’s use of digital activism allowed it to scale up quickly, resulting in a large amount of publicity and international coverage.

The events of the ongoing ENDSARS campaign have made it difficult to ignore the ambiguity of social media usage in social movements in non-Western settings. The #EndSARS hashtag was first used in December 2017 by Twitter user @Segalink, when an open call was made for Nigerians to protest police brutality and demand for the dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) – a unit of the Nigerian Police Force that has gained notoriety for its repeated human rights abuses.

Until the 5th of October 2020, much of the campaign occurred online, under the hashtag, #EndSARS, but as soon as a video of the squad murdering a young boy went viral, Nigerians all over the world, including myself, banded together to protest both online and offline.  Since then, the campaign has received significant international coverage and publicity, resulting in the Nigerian government disbanding the unit.

During the ENDSARS campaign, we have seen the integral use of collective and connective action by activists, however, we have also seen the Nigerian government use social media to counter these efforts, calling into question the effectiveness of social media in fostering political reform within Nigeria’s anocracy and third world countries.

The use of mass protesting and digital protesting through social media platforms, predominantly Instagram and Twitter have given Nigerians all over the world a voice that has ultimately disrupted the country’s culture of deference. However, the government still hasn’t reasoned with its people, resulting in little change. These events have made me question the effectiveness of social media in fostering political reform.

In June earlier this year, the Nigerian government accused Twitter, of facilitating ‘activities that are capable of undermining [its] corporate existence’. Their statement came two days after the social media platform removed a controversial post made by Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari as the statement was deemed to have violated Twitter community guidelines.

Read more “Can social media facilitate social change and political action?”

25
Aug
Salonee Gadgil

People aren’t voiceless, we just weren’t listening

Posted by Salonee GadgilTagged , ,

The beauty of language is that it is ever changing, evolving as humans evolve and adapting to better suit the times. Words that our grandparents seemed to throw around with not a care in the world, now sound abrasive, misplaced or wrong. Some words and phrases are easy to identify as being politically incorrect; we all know 80% of Snoop Dogg’s lyrics are only acceptable coming from him, in a song, and will get you fired from your job if uttered in the office.

Cancel culture may at times go a bit too far, but in general it’s a good thing that we’re constantly questioning what is and isn’t ok to say. On a side note; John Cleese, often the victim of cancellation, is going to explore wokeness in a new Channel4 documentary called Cancel Me. It promises to be both eye opening and entertaining, if you are so inclined.

It would seem this evolution of language has now sped up. This is perhaps the result of living in a more interconnected world, where we aren’t siloed and are often confronted by views differing from our own, which in turn causes us to interrogate our ways. Since we’re on the subject of Cleese, The Monty Python brand of humour, which once only brought about LOLs, now raises eyebrows. We now look back at the sitcom Friends in horror at the callous fat jokes and transphobia. It took only three decades (yes, that’s how old Friends is, but it’s a drop in the ocean of human social evolution) for this shift. It’s no surprise we find it hard to keep up and are fumbling to find correct words.

If the world of pop culture struggles with keeping up, you would imagine it’s even more challenging within the social sector and world of philanthropy, which by its very nature deals with complex and uncomfortable subject matter. By large, the social sector works towards the eradication of inequalities…of gender, race, income, housing, freedom, rights and so on. There’s no way of getting around talking about people without acknowledging that there are some in a position of power and some who aren’t. The recognition of inequality and hierarchies is important. As they say, the first step towards recovery is admission.

During the pandemic, many of our society’s inequalities stared us in the face, making themselves more visible than they were before. We’ve thought more about people on the margins, those with access to a safe place to isolate or the money to safeguard themselves. We’re thinking and talking more about inequality, which is evidenced in a massive spike in the prevalence of Google search terms, such as ‘systemic inequality’ and ‘vulnerable people’ since the start of the pandemic.

A trend analysis of search volumes associated with the terms ‘vulnerable people’ and ‘systemic inequality’ over the past 10 years.

Read more “People aren’t voiceless, we just weren’t listening”

19
Aug
Stand Agency

Reframing annual leave – a win for mental health, the environment and local businesses

Posted by Stand AgencyTagged , , , , , ,

Whether it’s our environmental conscience, Brexit-fuelled visa uncertainty or – yes, you guessed it – the pandemic, the way we are thinking about holidays has changed.

Firstly, we’ve been forced to reconsider how we approach annual leave. In the past taking days off from work almost invariably meant travel, often travel overseas. Over the past year of course things have been different, and the pandemic forced us to rethink how we use our annual leave entitlement. There’s a reason the Government makes it compulsory for employers to give their staff annual leave – and it isn’t because they want us to be catching flights to exotic locales! It’s because working continuously without any breaks is bad for productivity, results in poor mental health, and the risk of burnout.

The mental health benefits of taking time off are well-documented and understood. In 2020 many employers reported their staff weren’t using up annual leave, hoping to save it up for when international travel resumed. Sadly, for many, this wait wasn’t fruitful and just resulted in unclaimed holiday being lost, and months of break-free work. With this came the realisation that annual leave is more about a break from work than it is about travel.

Read more “Reframing annual leave – a win for mental health, the environment and local businesses”

28
Jul
Salonee Gadgil

So… has the pandemic set us back or propelled us forward?

Posted by Salonee GadgilTagged , , , , , , , ,

Last week, just days after the restrictions in England were lifted, we hosted our first panel event. The discussion brought together great minds: Chartered Psychologist Dr Jennifer Opoku-Lageyre who spoke about her experiences treating patients with trauma and anxiety during the pandemic, Andy Ratcliffe, Executive Director of Programmes at Impact on Urban Health, who shed light on what it was like supporting communities in South London during the pandemic and Maccs Pescatore, CEO, Montessori Centre International who shared her views on how lockdowns have impacted Britain’s early years education. The conversation was chaired by Sarah O’Grady, Social Affairs Correspondent at the Daily Express and our Managing Director Laura Oliphant.

It was rich discussion, one that was supposed to last 45 mins, but lingered on for much longer and continued over a few glasses of wine. Our insightful speakers and engaged audience had much to talk about. The discussion swung between being quite pessimistic about the damage done by the pandemic, and optimistic about it being the catalyst we needed to bring about social change. We asked those in attendance what they’d remember most about things that were discussed. What’s the one idea or insight they’d take with them? Here’s what they said they’d be most likely thinking about on the train ride home.

The fact that there is a difference in 12 years of life expectancy within Lambeth borough.  

 We often talk about the great divide between the haves and have-nots in London. But Andy really hammered the message home with this very shocking statistic. It reinforces the need for tailored messaging around things like the vaccine. Can we really be reaching these two very disparate groups of people, one in Dulwich, another on Queen’s Road Peckham using the same public service messages asking them to go take the vaccine? Are we surprised they don’t all behave the same way?

We haven’t seen the economic second wave yet.

 A lot of Andy’s work at Impact on Urban Health is around how life hits health, that is, how housing, jobs and income affect ones physical health. So far, we’ve had the job retention scheme, we’ve had benefits, and suspended evictions. People working in the sector worry that when all these support systems are taken away, there will be a new wave of illnesses from people who can’t eat or live as well, or look after their children because of economic pressures. People have been talking about ‘long covid’, but what Andy’s been worried about is the ‘long pandemic’.

The desire to make decisions begins very young and is fundamental to our development.

Maccs reminded us of just how important early years education is, in developing decision-making skills. When a child goes into a Montessori nursery, they learn to make their own choices about what they want to play with, draw, and so on. This ability to make choices, autonomously, is vital in building a sense of self and resilience. Dr Jen pointed out that over the course of the pandemic, rules have been made for us. This loss of autonomy has been the fundamental cause for why people have experienced poor mental health. Humans strive for autonomy and personal freedom. If adults are suffering from the lack of the freedom to choose, what impact has living under strict guidelines had on small children? Should we really be more worried about the loss of their maths ability during the pandemic, when the real issue may be an ingrained lack of autonomy?

Read more “So… has the pandemic set us back or propelled us forward?”

26
Jul
Grace French

Wellbeing is not a one-size-fits-all approach

Posted by Grace FrenchTagged , ,

It’s safe to say that being plunged into multiple lockdowns across the past 18 months – though for good reason – has played havoc with the nation’s mental wellbeing. With restrictions changing at short notice and guidance sometimes unclear, at times it’s been hard to know where to turn and what we can safely do.

A consequence of that has been growing uncertainty and instability in how we monitor and look after our wellbeing. It’s a story of two halves – with the stay at home guidance we’ve had much more time to reflect on our mental wellbeing and focus on self-care. But at the same time, increased isolation and ongoing uncertainty has meant that a one-size-fits-all approach to wellbeing can’t be applied, and we haven’t all been able to access our usual coping strategies.

Recognising that wellbeing means different things to different people, Stand has offered a wellness bounty for a number of years, which colleagues can use however they wish for the benefit of their own wellbeing. By giving everyone the freedom to choose what serves their needs best, we can ensure people feel supported, but not pigeon-holed by a restrictive wellbeing programme.

It’s really come into its own since the pandemic – allowing people to explore new coping strategies as well as reinforce existing ones. Here’s a roundup of what we’ve been up to with our wellness bounties recently.

Tash

“I used some of my wellness bounty to buy a Fitbit. I started running during lockdown to get out of the house, get fitter and clear my head before work – my Fitbit has really helped to motivate me to continue doing this.

“Even on days when I don’t go running, it encourages me to get up and walk around every hour to get at least 250 steps in, which helps take my eyes away from my screen and gives my mind a quick rest.”

Cait

“During lockdown, I found solace in running over the summer months. As we started going into autumn / winter, and another lockdown loomed, I realised I didn’t have the kit to run in the cold. The wellness bounty enabled me to buy active wear that would be warm enough. Exercising outdoors really helped with my mental wellbeing and knowing that I was going to be able to continue to use running as an outlet lifted a big weight off my shoulders.”

Georgie

“I’ve invested in some refreshed yoga equipment, including this eco yoga mat. Yoga is a bit like the swiss army knife of exercise for me – it can be intensive, restorative, focusing – whatever you need it to be. Having a new mat has been very welcome.”

Grace

“During the pandemic I channelled a lot of energy into creative activities. I used my wellness bounty to buy some papercutting, silver jewellery-making and arm knitting supplies.

“Being able to focus on a task I could control, and then have something tangible at the end that I can now enjoy, has done wonders for my wellbeing. And I’ve discovered some lifelong skills in the process!”

Sadie

“I’ve used some of my wellness bounty so far on some walking shoes, for trekking around the Cornish coast when visiting family. I’d had my eyes on them for a while but couldn’t quite afford them, so I’ve been extremely pleased to now have the means to do so! I look forward to making the most of the rest of my wellness bounty and remain appreciative to work at such a thoughtful agency who support health and wellbeing.”

Laura

“I’ve put my wellness bounty towards some new trainers for the London Marathon 2021!  Hoping they will keep me niggle free and help me get across the finish line in October!”

Jevan

“I used my wellness bounty for my gym membership and an apple fitness subscription, which has kept me active during lockdown (and kept my sanity). It’s so nice to work for a company that supports employees’ wellbeing, across both physical and mental health.”

19
Jul
Chloe Roberts

Covid-19 has given us a harsh lesson in education inequality

Posted by Chloe RobertsTagged , ,

Although ‘Freedom Day’ is here, Covid’s effects will, as we hear all too often, be felt for years to come.

One sector that has had more than its fair share to deal with is education. Covid has meant months of missed lessons and face to face contact with teachers and peers for thousands of pupils. Official government data shows that the number of pupils absent from schools in England for Covid-related reasons is at its highest since schools fully reopened in March, with almost 840,000 children out of class last week.

This is of course not to mention the disruption and frustration it has caused for teachers and parents – many of whom were left juggling work, family and childcare.

In Grace’s recent blog, she talked about how Covid has exposed and exacerbated inequalities across all facets of life. However, it has also created a unique moment, amid the chaos, to stop and re-evaluate what we really value, how we do things and how to make things better.

This is all too true of our education system which, Maccs Pescatore, CEO of Montessori Centre International, says “isn’t working as well as it should and hasn’t done for a long time because the sector has been woefully underfunded.”

And while the pandemic has impacted the whole education sector, the early years is rarely spoken about.

Read more “Covid-19 has given us a harsh lesson in education inequality”

16
Jul
Aga Maciejewska

The pandemic of inequalities

Posted by Aga MaciejewskaTagged , , , , , , , ,

Last week, the Health Foundation’s Unequal pandemic, fairer recovery report made headlines, revealing that throughout the pandemic, the chances of dying from Covid-19 were nearly four times higher for adults of working age in England’s poorest areas than for those in the wealthiest places.

The report is just the latest in the string of evidence that the pandemic has not been ‘a great leveller’, as some people referred to it back in the spring of 2020. The UK has struggled with deep-rooted, socioeconomic inequalities for years. Those have not only contributed to the country’s high and unequal death toll from Covid-19 but have also been exacerbated and made worse, particularly for some groups, including ethnic minorities, women and those on low pay.

Andy Ratcliffe, Executive Director for Programmes at Impact for Urban Health, has been working with families in the South London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark to understand how various inequalities impact population’s health. As he explains:

“Health inequality is the starkest manifestation of other inequalities – unfairness tends to layer on unfairness. If you’re subject to systemic racism, you are also more likely to be poor, live in lower quality housing and then you’re more likely to get sick. All those things interact. Fundamentally, it’s the inequality that’s the issue and health inequality is just the starkest example.”

Looking at the impact of the pandemic,  Andy has no doubt that it has made the existing inequalities worse and that this might sadly be just the beginning:

“We layered Covid on top of an already very unequal situation. We haven’t really even started to feel the impacts of the economic pandemic and the long-term health effects of it. We’ve seen a lot of policy changes, such as furlough and the uplift of universal credit, designed to help people through the pandemic. When those start to fall away, we will have an economic wave that could have huge long term health consequences.”

 

Read more “The pandemic of inequalities”

02
Jul
Grace French

Has the pandemic set us back 50 years, or will it propel us forward?

Posted by Grace FrenchTagged , ,

At its onset, Covid-19 was described as the great leveller. But the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated inequalities across many facets of life. For many, the situation has never been worse. But we also discovered a renewed intolerance for inequalities, a greater appreciation for those around us, and a desire to cement a better future for all.

This has created a unique moment for change. It’s vital that we examine what’s changed during the pandemic – both the good and the bad – and learn from it, to create a more equal and inclusive society.

Shining a light on mental health, during the pandemic we saw a story of two halves; more people struggling with mental health, and more people speaking up about it. In a year of drastic change and lockdowns the mental health of people of all ages and backgrounds has been greatly impacted. At the same time, mental health is being discussed more than ever and there’s a desire to improve mental health outcomes as we emerge from the pandemic – which itself comes with its own stressors.

The figures speak for themselves. Depression and anxiety levels significantly increased since the pandemic began, but at the same time diagnoses and referrals plummeted in lockdown. This is creating a pressure point – with an anticipated 11% increase in referrals in the next 3 years – a bottleneck of people who urgently need support.

Read more “Has the pandemic set us back 50 years, or will it propel us forward?”

29
Jun
Beth Davies

Pride 2021: Tokenistic campaigns just won’t fly anymore

Posted by Beth DaviesTagged , , , , , ,

June is Pride Month, a time for celebrating the diverse accomplishments, identities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. With 2020 seeing the queer community face a disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic, it is perhaps more important than ever for us to show our support and allyship.

Over the years, Pride has become an opportunity for brands to express their support for equal rights and representation, investing heavily in sponsorships, ads, and pride-themed products. But we know consumers are turning a critical eye to the companies they buy from, and brands need to go further than just wrapping merchandise up in rainbow packaging and calling it a day.

So-called ‘rainbow washing’ or ‘pink washing’ is too often the route that organisations take, and many major brands haven’t maintained a consistent enough relationship with LGBTQ+ communities to last Pride Month without some scrutiny. To be honest, it can be a difficult to hold back the cynicism, when even Pret rebrands as ‘Pride a Manger’.

Some 2021 Pride campaigns have certainly struck the wrong chord. Take Bud Light, which brought out an advert replacing the letters in the acronym LGBTQ with ‘Let’s Grab Beers Tonight, Queens’. An ad that erases identities in favour of selling beer, surely had to be designed without any queer people in the room. Also attracting criticism is Skittles, for its attempt at meaningful action which consisted of donating a portion of product proceeds to the media advocacy group, GLAAD. The problem? Skittles limited donations to less than 0.03% of sales during Pride month. 2020 brought with it an increased focus on diversity and inclusion, and tokenistic marketing just won’t fly anymore.

Read more “Pride 2021: Tokenistic campaigns just won’t fly anymore”

23
Jun
Natasha Machin

We like big books and we cannot lie

Posted by Natasha MachinTagged , , ,

One of the few silver linings of the multiple lockdowns across the past 15 months, was a significant and unexpected amount of free time at home. At first it was an overwhelming amount of free time – but gradually, people found their own way to fill it and help them get through a difficult time.

With no work commute and extra time spent at home, people across the country seized the opportunity to find new interests, such as baking, exercise, online virtual parties and quizzes, crafting, gaming – the list goes on.

With the recent annual profits report from Bloomsbury Publishing showing that book sales rose by 14% in the year to the end of February, it is clear that many found comfort and solace in picking up a good old book, and reading for pleasure.

The pandemic has been a challenging time for many, and the escapism of a good book enabling readers to explore someone else’s mind, experiences and story, gave us a release from the reality of the day-to-day of lockdown and rising Covid-19 cases. There’s no denying that reading has a positive effect on your mental health and can be a great way to practice mindfulness. A 2015 report from Quick Reads showed that reading helps to reduce stress levels and improve wellbeing – all the more vital against the backdrop of a global pandemic.

Read more “We like big books and we cannot lie”