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Amnesty International UK’s Rise Up: Our First Session

22 October 2019

At Amnesty International UK, we are very proud to have held our first Rise Up weekend with aspiring young campaigners from across the UK in September. Supported by The Co-operative Bank, Rise Up is a one-year training programme for young people interested in achieving social change. Made up of four residential weekend sessions, the aim is to build skills, knowledge, confidence and networks so participants feel well equipped to lead their own social change campaigns. Here is a recap of the weekend!

Saturday

We kicked off our first session with participants creating an imagined map of the UK based on where everyone had travelled from to get to Amnesty’s London offices. After some orienteering around our small(ish) meeting room, we had pretty much every region covered from the Scottish Highlands, to the Devonshire coast. This map acted as a platform for everyone to introduce themselves and their journeys, giving us first insight into the diverse identities and ambitions we will explore together throughout the year. From homelessness to LGBTQ+ rights, participants brought a range of issues that they hoped to work on, using Rise Up to guide their approach.

After developing an agreement on how the group wanted to work together over the year, including guidance on the use of technology in sessions, and a commitment to using non-discriminatory language, we moved into an afternoon of creative workshops. Working with staff from Ice and Fire, a company using theatre to explore human rights, we explored the role of storytelling as a campaigning tactic. We learned how to have difficult conversations, in a way that felt safe and productive and we were encouraged to interrogate any assumptions we may have about other campaigners.

Sunday

Sunday continued with a mix of creative and practical sessions, showcasing the range of approaches available to campaigners. We spent time reviewing the UN Declaration on Human Rights with a critical eye, reflecting on the different rights incorporated within it, and those that are clearly lacking. After lunch, we investigated the power dynamics at play in different social change campaigns, and how best to map and influence different actors involved. This felt like a useful session to end with, leaving participants with a practical tool to guide thinking on who they might want to work with in their campaigning.  

By the end of the weekend, the group felt both exhausted and energised. Before leaving, we invited everyone to note down their initial reflections via a wall of post-it notes. There were suggestions for how to make the sessions more interactive, and a plea for better sandwiches (noted!). The overwhelming sense seemed to be that we had successfully created a safe and welcoming space in which to develop ideas. The feedback that stayed with us the most came from a participant on her way out who said ‘I feel like I’ve made 19 new friends’. Given that relationship-building forms a key part of any good campaign, we couldn’t really ask for more than that.  

Next steps

Over the next week, we’re holding individual calls to get more detailed feedback on what worked, and what participants hope to see more of over the course of Rise Up and how they can start to implement these skills and learnings. We will use this insight to tailor the training to try and best meet everyone’s needs. Crucially, we will work with campaigners with lived experience of relevant issues to design training content, so it feels authentic and relatable. For our December session, ‘the change you want to see’ our aim is to have a diverse and exciting range of change makers leading sessions to reflect the diversity and ambitions of the group. We can’t wait to tell you more about the programme!

A blog written by Ellie Kennedy, lead facilitator for Rise Up and individuals at risk campaigner for Amnesty International UK.

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