About me

Welcome to my blog. Im always looking for new ways of bringing people together to build campaigns. Im always amazed by the energy and passion of the people I meet and the different skills they bring to making change happen - the ideas we try out, the campaigns we work on, the relationships we build together. I want to share those stories with you. I hope you enjoy them!

Contact me

You've got an idea or activity that you would like to develop, an issue that matters to you or would just like to find out more? Contact me now by email, twitter, or facebook.

Do you prefer to be home or away from it?!

Despite living in between the undiscovered beauty of Battersea Square and the melancholic raucousness of the Thames, I can never sit still and always have to be somewhere different.

Where was it that you caught the travel bug?

On the TGV down to the Alps, vomiting over a Swiss version of Cruella. I was 18 months...Seriously though, that is my first memory of travelling!

Have you ever lived abroad, taught abroad?

I went to university in Paris up until Masters level, but still couldn't sit still and during my time there I went to live in Spain about three times, went to Barcelona on an Erasmus study exchange – never having learnt Spanish let alone Catalan.
When I finished my degree a couple of years later, I missed the pomp of my graduation ceremony to go to the Costa del Sol to work as a waiter for the summer season. Except for the drug-fuelled manager and the whisky-fuelled cook, no-one had worked for the restaurant – it was like the tower of babel with students from all over Europe. I randomly went back to Barcelona as part of my Masters, managing at the end of my stay there to even string along ten minutes of Catalan – more listening than speaking. Now I don't work abroad, but I do organise campaigning abroad – nothing like surprising locals you're canvassing when you tell them you're English campaigning in Sweden or France.

Do you prefer hotels to hostels?

Hostels, it's not just recession chic, it's like turning up at a friend's house – you listen to the stories (and the snoring, vomiting, banging, etc) of the people sharing your room, you get a feel of the locals, their tips on where to go, the complementary can of beer or cup of coffee. Only downside to hostels is that they lock up far too early and you have to sleep rough in the presidential gardens like I did in Sofia.
I also feel guilty about my recent experiences of hotels – being all four star, and all paid for by campaigning organisations in areas which suffer from poverty (except for in Swaziland when I pulled the short straw and stayed in a hotel which hadn't yet been fully built). Although hotels are making a comeback, having woken up after a hangover in a four star hotel, discovering a 50 metre breakfast buffet in a hotel in Madrid (Auditorium Hotel) which started with a tropical fruit bar and ended up with a fry up frenzy.

Solo or group travel?

Group, it's better sleeping rough with others than on your own. You feel more adventurous in a group – egging each other on to try new things – like staying up all night to eat scorpion in raspberry coulis, because the “insect bar” that sells it only opens in the morning in La Boqueria market in Barcelona – or getting a DJ slot a an underground jazz bar run by the mafia, and finding out all the exchange students...and their Spanish flatmates have got free drinks by saying they were with the DJ. Travelling with locals just opens you up to so much more – it's like discovering a different city to the one described in the tourist guides – like with volunteers who took us through the Swazi countryside to meet women with HIV who through growing and selling vegetables - really gave them a sense of dignity and pride, but also power to be able to make a living independently.
Although solo travel can have its advantages, if you join up to “Useful Vistors” (sorry for the plug).

A lot of your tips come from Barcelona - is that a place you went to for any particular reason?

I lived there twice – the first time on an Erasmus exchange as part of my degree, only having learnt Spanish for a term – and the second time for my Masters, managing to string along 10 minutes of Catalan by the end of my stay there.

What do you love about the city?

Although most of my friends never actually went to the university, despite it being on the main shopping street – Las Ramblas – I would turn up to lessons at 9am sharp after having returned home clubbing only a few hours before.
In every nook and crannie of the city, whether it's an old school pharmacy or a cafe that sells jelly and ice cream, everyone goes out of their way to wow people and ultimately make Barcelona more than just a city. It's like they all feel a sense of pride and responsibility to want to be part of creating Barcelona's identity – to reflect the people that live, work and play there – and given how many people come to the city to do all of those things (usually in reverse order) – those people are never the same. It's like a melting pot of the minds of all the people that come there. From Salsitas, a restaurant which when the clock turns midnight, waiters start taking the chairs around your table if you haven't finished eating and the clubbers start pouring in, Pipa Club which is officially a pipe-smoking members' club but actually turns into a messy post-clubbing hangout on weekday nights if there aren't any doughnuts left down the Lancaster bakery and you've returned from the all time favourite discotheque – La Paloma. But it's never over the top – because the trendiness is so inclusive, it's less lounge bars with new age music and more comfortable sofas found on a skip in a reconverted old-man's tapas bar with the barman flicking over the vinyl when he's taking time-out from making cocktails. So much that you'd almost forget the Mediterranean was only a short walk away. However much you've been out all night, working out all day or...lying on the beach, you just want to keep going – there's always something in the corner of your eye you want to go and check out. I remember writing this about Las Ramblas, but it goes for Barcelona itself. “The best advice when it comes to (this city) is to plunge in, go with the flow and enjoy the constant weird and wonderful activities taking place around you. “

If you had to sum up your travelling style in three words what would you say?

Nooks and crannies

Where are you planning to go to next and why?

Berlin. Haven't been there for years and after sampling its culture – whether it's the music (BPitch), the films (Goodbye Lenin) or just friends going on about how raw and raucous – it just makes me want to go back for more.

Where is your favourite view?

On the beach on the Lac d'Annecy where I used to go on holiday to see my relatives as a child – whether it's the summer and you can feel the warm glow of the sun on the lake and the shadow of a sombrero from the doughnut seller, or it's the winter and you can feel the snowflakes dropping down from the mountains towering around you.

Do you feel like your life has been enhanced through travelling? In what way?

When you discover a new place and take a wander down the streets – you might be shocked by it inequality and its decadence, you might be amazed by it's beauty and authenticity. At the end of the day, you're opening up to new experiences without knowing what's going to happen next, you're discovering as much about yourself as you are about the locals and immersing yourself in their culture. Those experiences are always different and that's why I always feel goosebumps when I set foot in a new country.

Describe a weekend day in your hometown.

Can't help having a peek down the South Bank and Brick Lane – ironically I know there will always be something going on – and there's no shame in going to places filled with tourists, if they are drawn to areas which are so multicultural, vivacious and authentic, then that can only make us Londoners proud of where we live and invite more people to come and share those experiences.

Can you tell us about your best moment travelling - even if it's in your hometown?

Going to South Africa – it was a surreal experience, which started off checking into the trendiest hotel I’ve ever seen. It was like the TV programme Hotel Babylon – with lifts themed around shark cages and cable cars - a swimming pool circling the restaurant and a climbing wall outside the hotel, so much for fighting consumerism.
Experiencing the emotional distress of a terminal AIDS sufferer, talking to a nurse on the same day as meeting women with HIV working in the fields reskilling as farmers, manage the tensions between the taking part in amazing street interventions on Soweto market to raise awareness about AIDS with a group that promotes abstinence before contraception (although we did also meet TAC whose volunteers compete for who can distribute the most condoms in their communities), being deluded into getting into a casspir as part of a rehearsal for a CSR initiative of a famous fizzy drinks company – basically a truck that used to threaten the corners of every township in the apartheid years – and amazed at witnessing the courage of volunteers walking through a rape crisis centre in the face of the shadow of the state no no longer threatening by its presence but in many ways by its absence, attending the annual youth day, which celebrates the past – the Soweto uprising – as much as the future – err...young people. All of this was summed up when we met Dennis Goldberg – an anti-apartheid activist who stood in the Rivonia trial in 1964. It was strangely wonderful that the barbeque he organised brought together community organisers from local townships and ourselves from the UK, or to put it more simply, getting people from different backgrounds to be able to share stories, laughs and share good food together without feeling the chains of inequality and inferiority. This type of benign event on a winter's night (our summer!) was what he had dreamt about all these years ago. It's what kept him going from when he started as a political activist through to the famous Rivonia trial and through the mind crushing years in prison. Although he argued that South Africa wasn't a rainbow nation yet, but more a nation of diverse cultures, I felt both awkward and inspired throughout the trip at how every time you turn round, someone is there to take your rubbish, fill up your cup of coffee, lend you a hand. It's that genuine sense of solidarity and fraternity, put simply neighbourliness that we so miss in this country. At the end of the day, it's about creating the spaces to listen and let people open up and explore their insecurities which may be crystallised through prejudice, such as racism, sexism or ageism.

Ipod or book?

Book, I haven't got an Ipod

Most essential item?

A camera

First published here.

Out of office, out of sight, out of reach - Generation Why?

I remember walking into a briefing on the Erasmus scheme while at university. I remember thinking this scheme reflected the principles of the European Union - uniting Europeans from all backgrounds behind a common identity by creating it together. The film, the "Auberge Espagnole", itself epitomised this Erasmus experience of what the European good society could look like. But did it really reflect how young people lived their lives in the noughties?

What else united young Europeans? More and more us got places at university, more and more us got into debt paying for tuition fees and more and more of us were betrayed by the myth that graduates would get graduate jobs. The only bar we had a chance of practising at was at the local pub, bistrot or discoteca. All we've done is wait. Wait by the phone in the hope of a job, wait restaurant tables to pay the bills and wait in the queue for the dole.

For those who of us who couldn't get into university, we were promised that employers preferred vocational skills to degrees, so more and more of us took up apprenticeships. The only vocation that united us was trying to hard to please the employers who ignored these new diplomas and preferred recruiting from their old boys networks.

To stop the rise in youth unemployment, governments traded off our wellbeing with employers by allowing them to pay us as little as possible. In many cases we were paid less than the minimum allowed, providing loopholes for the most powerful professions - accountants, lawyers and politicians - to recruit first class talent on pocket money wages. Despite our governments' blind belief in economic growth, wages in relation to the cost of living fell. We became the "Generation Precaire".

And now the recession's turned up on our doorstep, young workers are the first to be shown the door. Youth unemployment has shot up across the continent - between 30 to 40% of young people are out of work in most of Europe and that's not even including all those who graduated this autumn and have just joined the queue.

We may look back at the noughties and forget the fads that came and went - from Big Brother to X Factor - but we won't forget being unemployed even when we get older. Not being in work means we lose valuable experience and training and even when we get a job, we're going to go back to the cycle of low self esteem and lack of job security, low wages and lack of career advancement.

As a generation, we don't know where to turn back to. Like other under-represented groups in the places of power, young people are marginalised. In politics, we are too often restricted to "youth issues". In the economy, we are treated as ideal bait for consumption. In society we are asked to wait our turn, we are the "next generation", but next never means now.

It's partly why we are least likely to take part in the structures defined by the generation that preceded them - such as political parties and trade unions. With the crisis we face, people are crying out for a new way of doing politics. It's not that young people aren't interested in politics, it's that they see no way of being able to make change happen.

That's why so many are refusing the compromises of the centre left and putting their trust in the parties on the fringes - from the greens to the far left, just look at the recent election results in Germany and France. Many more aren't even bothering to vote and instead taking to the streets to fight the marketisation of their education, storming the runways to make sure future generations don't pay the price.

Our grandparent's generation fought and got the welfare state, our parents took to the streets for individual liberties. The challenges for our generation can only be solved by working together across borders. Only doing this can provide us with a decent future across Europe.

Noel Hatch is the National Chair for Compass Youth and co-author of "Radical Future, Politics for the Next Generation" (Soundings, forthcoming April 2010).


Do you want to learn creative campaigning techniques and use them to help shape our campaign?

We’re launching "All Doled Up" our campaign on youth unemployment and we want you to try out new techniques to help develop it!

Almost one in five young people are out of work. Unemployment affects us all, whether we're out of work or our friends and family are.

That's why we want to work with you so you can do something about it together. So you can get together with other young people to campaign on youth unemployment where you live or study.

Toynbee Hall and Compass Youth want to invite you to an all day training day. So you’ll be able to

  • Use stories young people have shared with us on youth unemployment to spread the word about our campaign and get those in power to support and act on our pledges

  • Learn creative campaigning techniques - such as making viral videos, get your message out to the media and designing campaign visuals

You'll be able to try these out on the day itself with other young people and most importantly what you create will be what we use to campaign on youth unemployment - your videos, your slogans, your flyers!

This is what our last campaigns camp was like, just imagine you could take part in our next one!

Creative Campaigns Day 09 from Creative Campaigns Day on Vimeo.

What are you waiting for?


Do you want to vote which ideas we campaign on youth unemployment?

Do you want to help develop how we campaign on this?

The Cuts Don’t Work
Saturday 30 Jan - 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Congress House, Great Russell Street, London, United Kingdom

Why do we have to pay the price for their crisis? When they want to charge us more to get into university and get housing? While they carry on slashing our pay, our jobs and our services. It’s time to fight the recession. It’s time to take back our future.

Whether you’ve been involved in organizing before or not, you’re probably curious about how to campaign and maybe even fired up about an issue you’d like to campaign on.

You’ll be able to help develop campaign strategies on issues that are affecting young people the most through the recession. You can then work out with us and other young activists how we spread the word and how we target those in power to act.

We’ve also invited a cracking line up of speakers who are organising for young people right across the country:

Noel Hatch – Chair of Compass Youth

Rowenna Davis – Journalist at the Guardian, Independent and Headliners

Sam Tarry – Hope not Hate Organiser and Chair of Young Labour

Nizam Uddin – President of University of London Union

Bell Ribeiro-Addy – Black Students’ Officer for NUS

As well as the Mercury Music Award Winner – Speech Debelle!

So come and join us and Progressive London on Saturday 30th January between 10-5pm.

Sign up here!

Everyone who signs up to this session will get a free campaign toolkit on the day

Ideas are nothing without action. But together we can build the London we want to see.

This session is part of a wider conference that will bring together leading figures in London and beyond to discuss the most important issues for progressive politics in 2010, nationally, internationally and in London and the ideas, alliances and policies we need to move forward.

Progressive London was initiated by Ken Livingstone in 2008 as a cross-party, multi-community forum involving politicians, artists, trade unionists, bloggers, community activists and campaigners to promote social progress in the capital.

What will you pledge?

1. Sign up now

2. Bring along three of your friends

3. Come along


With the current political debate taking place on families and marriage it looks like issues close to women will be being discussed in the coming election campaign.

That's why we at Compass Youth hope we can use the platform to discuss women's representation in UK politics and beyond as well as 'women's issues' on the political agenda.

All four of our amazing speakers have different areas of interest and expertise so it should make for a really broad meeting and hopefully we should get some ideas for the future too.

Speakers confirmed:

  • Emily Thornberry, Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
  • Dr Rainbow Murray, Politics Lecturer at Queen Mary University of London
  • Bellavia Ribeiro, Black Students' Officer, National Union of Students
  • Tulip Siddiq, Labour Party council candidate in Regent's Park and BAME Officer for Young Labour
Contact our Vice Chair - Cat Smith at cat@catsmith.co.uk if you have any queries.

What will you pledge?

1. Sign up now

2. Bring along three of your friends

3. Come along


I’ve been reflecting on some of the trends of 2009 and thinking about what New Year’s resolutions public services could start thinking about.

Thanks to digital technologies, more people are creating content and collaborating online in ways that weren’t possible before.

If we want radical efficiencies, it can’t be about doing the same for less, but about doing things differently and better, as well as measuring what matters.

If we look at where the web is most successful at driving social change, it’s where it mobilises untapped resources – people’s energy and innovation – for mutual benefit. It’s what we could call the gift economy.

So what’s this all about? When you receive gifts for Christmas this year, you don’t pay them the amount it was worth. At the same time, if you stop giving gifts to friends, you may find there’ll be less inclined to give you a present.

Our relationship with our citizens is different – it would be like offering a gift to a random person in the street, they wouldn’t necessarily return the favour.

So we need to find how to create relationships with people to mobilise their intrinsic motivation. Relationships affect how people behave and how they’re motivated. Transformation in society doesn’t happen when it adopts new tools, it happens when it adopts new behaviours.

That’s why developing approaches that gain a better understanding of these trends can help us find the innovators we want to work with.

Why not use techniques like relationship mapping or social network analysis? These could enable you to find people innovating to meet the needs of your customers, and they may even be working in your office.

Listen and make sense of stories

You might be able to find who’s been involved in an innovative project before that’s saved time and money but how do you come up with an innovative idea?

When someone asks you for an innovative idea, many of us feel put on the spot. Often, it’s informal conversations that spark off ideas. It’s what’s called the “water cooler” effect”.

Yet we don’t congregate around the water cooler to bounce off ideas, we go there to catch up and share stories about what’s been going on in the office – trying to get our heads around something or solve a difficult problem.

There are various ways that digital technologies are enabling that, not just in the office like micro blogging or communities of practice but also in our local communities with social reporting. It’s because people want to share their stories of what’s going on where they work or live.

So we’ve got stories and we’ve got data on what’s going on in our local areas – but how do we make sense of it all? It’s not just about evidence or consultation was carried out last year, it’s about what data and conversations people have been publishing to the web last night.

Why not use tools that can help you visualise all of this information to pick up new trends as well as open your expertise to the public so they can make better decisions on areas that affect them? With these tools, a picture quite literally is worth a thousand words.

Why not also use tools that enable people to re-use your public information and customise it create their own online information services in ways that suit them?

Get people together to make stuff that matters

So now we’ve listened to people and made sense of their networks and stories, we can start building relationship and mobilising people’s resources, their energy, creativity and goodwill.

Digital technologies make it easier to mobilise these resources. They also bring substantial opportunities for individuals, businesses and other groups to create innovative models to meet these new demands.

These models can be found in very niche web services like Enabled by Design or MyPolice. Both of these haven’t just created new models that wouldn’t have been possible before, they’ve exploited the power of the web to create approaches that offer a form of public service.

What’s more important is they weren’t created by councils or businesses – they were created by groups of people in their spare time. You might think, why would anyone want to do that? I asked the creators of both of these services.

So we can create an environment that nurtures the capacity for innovators to develop and take these models to scale.

Who not bring people together to develop prototypes of online services that meet specific challenges in just a day?

Join up the dots to involve everyone

We may have mobilised the innovators to help us tackle problems, but the strength of innovators is often at the edge of what we do, not at the centre, so how do we scale up innovations so that the wider public can benefit, especially those not online?

Why not reach out to local innovators who can use the web to help people help each other offline, so that the opportunities that digital technologies bring meet those that community engagement bring.

Transform services by transforming ourselves

The following quote captures the lesson I've learnt over 2009. "Transformation isn’t just about transforming services, it’s about transforming ourselves, it’s a new way of thinking, it’s a new mindset."

The challenge for all of us is to harness all those people in public services and the community who are intrinsically motivated to make things better – to make stuff that matters.


Crunch time - what's happening?

The number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work is now 952,000 - the highest figure since records began. We’re in a down turn, but we refuse to believe we’ve crashed.

We’re the upside of down and it’s up to us to take action. Working with you, Compass Youth are developing a campaign that’s going to be led by you to start the bounce back.

Who's been queuing up?

Over the last six months, young people across the country from universities, youth groups, schools, graduates on the street and people in the job centre have been listening to each other and developing ideas for that we’ll then act on to make change happen.

We want your support in Barking and Dagenham

Whatever your background or situation we believe you’ve got a voice and the ability to act. Young people have come together across the country and now we’re bringing people together in Barking and Dagenham between 23 January between 10.30-3pm to explore the impact of the crisis and develop ideas for action.

From 11 to 12.30 we’ll be running a listening session with young people on the problems’s we face and the solutions we propose.

We’ll then take our conversation to the streets and campaign with Jon Cruddas on the issue of the economic crisis locally.

What next?

After listening to young people of all ages and backgrounds across the country we’ll work with you to decide the three most effective ideas for action at the session we're holding at the Progressive London conference on 30 January and then enable you to learn campaigning techniques to shape our campaign on 7th February at Toynbee Hall, before campaigning over the coming months.

What will you pledge?

1. Sign up now

2. Bring along three of your friends

3. Come along


A couple of friends and I have decided to organise a rather last-minute stunt to raise awareness about the Copenhagen talks on 6-18th Dec and The Wave march on Saturday 5th Dec.

We're calling on all buskers / musicians / street performers / out of work actors / photographers to take to streets in the lead-up, and instead of busking for money, to provide passers-by with entertainment and flyers to raise awareness. Hence the (borrowed) name, "Keep your coins, we want change!"

The aim is to try and inspire a decentralised thing where people can just go and do it in whichever town or city they live on whatever day they're free. However, we also want to gather a group of people in London on the weekend of 28/29 November and spend an hour or so busking and spreading the word.

Although we are particularly looking for musicians, we also need flyerers and photographers. So noone is free from the invite. ;-)

If you are interested in helping, here are a few things you can do:

Sign up to the Facebook event

Follow us on Twitter

Add to our collaborative Spotify playlist of busking songs

Let me know if you can make it on the 28th/29th Nov

Spread the word!

As you may have guessed, this is a bit of an experiment. However, it also feels like something that could just spark an interest in the wider public, something that The Wave, and climate discussions drastically needs.

So, if you wanna get on board, get in touch, or forward this to all your friends!

Many thanks,


Do you have a story to tell about how you're using exciting campaigning techniques to make a difference to the issue you care about? Let me know!

It's time to clean up the house, It's time to take back our democracy

We say that young people aren't interested in politics, let alone democratic reform. If you asked them whether they were in favour of PR, the first thing that would come to their mind would be spin doctors not proportional representation.

They may not have known before what actually happens in the corridors of power, but they knew their voices weren't being heard, let alone represented. Let's be clear, the expenses crisis didn't create distrust between young people and MPs, it exacerbated it.

Young people don't listen any more to the rhetoric on local community that all parties bang on about, because what they see is supermarkets being allowed to crush any competition from local shops.

They don't listen any more to the rhetoric on fairness when what they see are fat cats bailed out once again lapping up the caviar and champagne from their bonuses, while young people are forced to lap up the rhetoric on the age of austerity and accept pay cuts and job cuts.

And they don't listen any more when faceless MPs who never rebel on our behalf just in case they get pushed off the greasy careerist pole, start rebelling to maintain their juicy perks.

When we get MPs who'd rather get a windfall payout than continue to represent their local constituents, we know that the game's up for the politics of greed and envy.

After all, why should MPs care about young people, when the only people they need to convince are "swing voters"?

We might not vote as much as other groups, but we'll certainly be voting for the MPs that pledge they will stand up for the issues we care about.

That's why Compass Youth teamed up with Power 2010 to hold a public debate on the change our democracy needs. Because we wanted to enable young people to be able to come together and come up with radical ideas on taking back our democracy. Because the ideas fed in through Power 2010 will go to a citizen's panel selected from across the country. Because the top five ideas will become the pledge that all candidates standing for the next elections will be asked to commit to. So we can see who's really progressive and who supports our politics.

And that's why the most popular idea at our session was to introduce a fairer voting system based on proportional representation. So that's why we are supporting the Vote for a Change campaign too.

So after touring London to film young people with Ed the Duck on what they would do if they were MP for a day, we dressed up as zombies for Halloween marching down Westminster as part of the Vote for a Change campaign.

Our democracy deserves better, we deserve better, let's change it.