Bootcamp Grad Wins Digital Campaigner of the Year Award

Bootcamp grad Katy recently won Digital Campaigner of the Year at the UK Parliament Awards. We spoke to her about the event and the We Care Campaign.

Congratulations on the award! How did you become involved in campaigning for unpaid carers to begin with?
I’m an unpaid carer myself, and in 2016 I took part in a government consultation to develop a strategy for carers, but unfortunately nothing happened with that strategy afterwards. I became really annoyed and frustrated with this because there are many carers who don’t self-identify, who don’t know about the support they can receive and some who don’t claim or aren’t aware of the benefits they’re entitled to, so in 2017 I started an e-petition calling on government to publish a Carers’ Strategy, and from this it became clear that carers were interested in campaigning, but they didn’t know how to start. The petition obtained 2,124 signatures, and some carers started to arrange to meetings with their own MP’s for support. That’s how we began the We Care Campaign.

What can you tell us about the awards and how the opportunity come about for you?
The Digital Democracy Award celebrates the work of an individual or organisation that has connected people with the UK Parliament through digital engagement. Through my campaigning I had engaged unpaid carers with parliament in a number of ways using digital means, this included the e-petition, encouraging unpaid carers to take part in a twitter #AsktheMinister question session to the Minister for Social Care, and organising a Valuing Carers digital event where decision makers, carers and the cared for posted messages of support for unpaid carers during Carers Rights Day. When I saw the opportunity on the UK Parliament’s Twitter page, we nominated ourselves for it and ended up winning!

How powerful has the digital world been to your campaigning?
Everyone who wants to be a part of the campaign are all in different parts of country, so we’ve had to use digital means to connect so all of our strategising and meetings are over Whatsapp and Google Hangouts. Using online platforms also gives you the opportunity to be flexible and a bit feisty with your campaigning – when we did the #AsktheMinister questions on Twitter we felt like it was only one side of the debate so we asked the Shadow Minister to take over our Twitter account and answer questions in real-time for an hour and that got a great response. One thing I made sure I did was to respond to every single message, tweet and post that people sent us online. I felt this was really important so I could build a relationship with them and hear about their carers story, this is something that’s often forgotten about, but that’s allowed the campaign to build a life of its own across the country.

What did it feel like receiving the award for the work We Care has done?
I saw it as recognition for every unpaid carer out there to have our voices heard in a time where that doesn’t happen. It was a platform to tell everyone that there is a group of people who you don’t realise are there, we’re a group of people who can’t go off to a march or be publicly present to get our voices heard, but we can still get involved in campaigning and we can do it digitally and it works.

You came to Bootcamp to learn how to amplify the voices of unpaid carers. Did you use any of the learnings from Bootcamp in your campaigning?
Bootcamp really gave me the confidence to take action with my campaigning. One of the best things was having a sense of community. We were all doing different campaigns, but we were all trying to get people’s voices heard to create positive change. When you’re surrounded by those people it’s so empowering, and that’s why I became more confident and proud when going into meetings with large carer organisations after Bootcamp.

Something else Bootcamp taught me was realising that you can be flexible and spontaneous with your campaigning, and also how to do self-care when campaigning and how important this is. Also because of Bootcamp I now have a website! Isn’t that amazing? Bootcamp held a conference for all of the alumni to learn skills and reconnect, and within an hour I learnt how to build a website for We Care.

What are some things you’ve learnt on your journey in campaigning so far?
You have to dig deep and keep going. You never realise the impact you’ve made at the time, sometimes it might take six months or one year to recognise it, but the important thing is that you did it. You never think the talk you gave or letter you wrote had impact, but it definitely has it just might take a little longer for you to see it and that’s something that always inspires me. I’ve also realised that you get to a point where opportunities come to you – I was given the opportunity to speak to an award-winning journalist who has now written a piece about unpaid carers. I spoke at the annual dinner for the Asfari Foundation who funded my scholarship for Bootcamp, they’ve been really interested in the journey of my campaigning since my scholarship and they gave me the chance to speak in front of 100 other campaigners and funders.

What’s next for your campaigning and how can people get involved?
We’re building a bank of carers stories and aim to use these effectively with decision makers. Carers week is coming up on the 10 – 16 June, and this time around I really want the narrative to be about the reality of what carers are doing, so we are doing a lot of work around that. If people want to get involved they can head over to our new website: http://wecarecampaign.tilda.ws/ or get in touch with us on social media.

What would you say to someone considering applying to Bootcamp this year?
Do it. Don’t think about it. For all of the reasons I’ve mentioned, I’ve become a really confident campaigner and I still keep in touch with the people from my Bootcamp today. We still take time to support each other’s campaigns, the best thing about it is the community you become a part of.

Applications are still open for Bootcamp 16, click below to start your application today! The deadline is Tuesday 30th April.

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