On June 2, 2023, an enlightening event unfolded at The Conduit, shedding light on the power of people in bringing about significant changes. The session, titled “Activism Triumphs: The Power of People Driving Change,” dove into the pivotal role of activism in shaping societies and effecting change. From movements like #MeToo to the justice campaign for Grenfell, insights from the very activists at the heart of these people-fueled drives offered a close look at what it takes to mobilize collective action and secure victories.
The event was specially organized in collaboration with Breakthrough, a social impact accelerator. It provided an exclusive behind-the-scenes view of some of the UK’s most impactful people-led campaigns in recent years. The panel of speakers included individuals who have altered laws, faced off with corporations, and bravely voiced out against injustices.
One of the panelists, Edward Daffarn, is a community advocate and survivor of the Grenfell Tower fire. Prior to the tragic incident, he co-authored the Grenfell Action Blog, which shed light on the treatment of residents in the Lancaster West Estate. Post-fire, Daffarn became part of Grenfell United, a group established by survivors and grieving families, striving for justice and change to prevent a catastrophe like Grenfell from reoccurring. The group has spearheaded campaigns aimed at enhancing the safety of homes nationwide and empowering social housing residents.
Katherine Sladden, the Executive Director of Breakthrough, was also among the speakers. Sladden has been at the vanguard of numerous high-profile people-powered campaigns in the UK and frequently provides counsel to global activists creating potent movements for change. Prior to her role at Breakthrough, she served as the founding Campaigns Director at Change.org UK, where she advised on hundreds of successful campaigns, including the initiatives to feature a woman on a banknote and the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign, among others.
Zelda Perkins, another panelist, has been a vocal campaigner since 2017 when she became the first woman to break a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that she had signed with Harvey Weinstein years earlier. Perkins spotlighted the systematic misuse of NDAs, attracting government and media attention. She has given evidence at two parliamentary inquiries uncovering widespread misuse. Perkins, named ‘Person of the Year’ by Time in 2017 and by the Guardian in 2020, co-founded ‘Can’t Buy My Silence,’ a campaign dedicated to ending the misuse of NDAs to silence victims.
Robert Booth, the social affairs correspondent at The Guardian, also joined the event. With over 15 years at The Guardian, he has covered notable stories including the Grenfell Tower disaster and its subsequent investigations, the Covid pandemic crisis in care homes, and housing squalor. His investigative works also include stories on Wikileaks and allegations of political interference by then Prince Charles.
The event underlined the strategies, tactics, and tools essential for successful activism. It underscored the potential of people-powered change, illustrating how activists have been able to rally together to bring about transformative changes in society. The courage and determination of these individuals show the true power of activism and how it can win against all odds.