The unlikely commsHERO

The unlikely commsHERO

On Tuesday 26th September I was awarded a Comms Hero award for being a ‘Champion in Sustainability’.

It was a day of firsts as it was the first Comms Hero awards and this is the first award I have ever personally won in my professional life.

To say I’m humbled to receive this recognition is an understatement. I was not expecting the award at all, as I avoid putting myself forward for such things. As comms people, we prefer to generally be behind the camera than in front of it.

I’ve written submissions and entries throughout my career for others, and for the organisations that I’ve worked for. In fact, I became quite the ‘expert’ in knowing what to write and how to write it and I’ve had many submissions get shortlisted and win. But ironically, I would never put pen to paper for myself.

This award from Comms Hero has been a defining moment for me. I’ve had nothing but encouragement from the Comms Hero team for many years. There have been times when I’ve had impostor syndrome and feeling like I’m not making a difference, and they have given me that boost I needed. There have also been a few individuals along the way who have been supportive of my work, and to all of them I am grateful.

I would like to thank Comms Hero for showing inclusivity and giving an opportunity and platform for someone from my background to be authentic, share my work and be recognised. I am pleased to see there has been some visible progress around diversity in the comms sector in general, and efforts to be more representative. This allyship is priceless, as it’s a lifeline to know that you are seen and valued.

This Champion in Sustainability award has been for my work around embedding sustainable behaviours and tackling climate inequality. It is an issue I am passionate about.  We cannot make a significant impact on climate change without the involvement of diverse communities. Therefore, I work closely with those from seldom heard backgrounds including those from black and minority ethnic and faith communities, and young people.

As I am working with communities, it is essential to have knowledge of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and barriers people face when engaging on such issues. It helps that I can draw on my own experiences of exclusion and discrimination. This gives me understanding and empathy, and enables me to be better at my job. I am keen to learn about different communities, their historical experiences, and how climate change impacts them both locally and also globally where they may have family connections.

My background of working at the grass roots enables me to deliver projects which are more likely to resonate with communities. Getting the messaging and language right is very important, as ‘climate change’ doesn’t necessarily mean anything at a deeper level to many people. By using the right terminology and also engaging in cultural and faith appropriate ways, communities are more likely to be receptive. This is critical to increasing involvement and representation.

A large part of my work has been to work with faith communities on climate action. I recently wrote a blog for London Councils about the intrinsic connection of faith and climate action. Faith leaders have a huge reach and influence and should be seen as partners not only for work on climate change but across the board.

Projects to embed positive behaviours around climate action need to resonate with communities. Whether that be through faith, culture and/or heritage, or even improved health and saving money; I tap into what already matters to people and what they hold dear. Some examples of my work includes the ‘Climate Change and My Religion’ exhibition where faith leaders shared how climate action is central to their faith teachings as well as taking a pledge for the planet. ‘From Brent to Bowl’ is a community cookbook which is themed around reducing food waste, and shares recipes and stories from our diverse community. In a week’s time, we are hosting ‘Creating Change’ – a sustainable fashion collaboration with Junk Kouture, and we have brought the globally renowned project Faces of Climate Change to our local area in order to shine a spotlight on unsung green heroes. The challenge I love is to come up with creative concepts that hopefully strike a chord and lead to lasting and meaningful change.