Campaigning with the Scope for Change programme

Originally published on the Amy Walker Writes Medium blog on September 7th, 2018

A few months ago I was honoured to find out I had been chosen as a #ScopeForChange campaigner. I had been having a tough few months, not getting far with job applications and suddenly a bunch of opportunities arrived at once: the three month internship at m/SIX through the Autism Exchange scheme, and the Scope opportunity. I was thrilled!

#ScopeForChange is a 6 month programme to train and support young disabled people in campaigning. It has been going on since 2015, and I heard about it through the Ambitious about Autism Youth Network. Jack Welch, a fellow Ambitious network member and campaigner (and notable Twitter personality!) was on the scheme previously and had this to say:

“I was part of the very first Scope for Change cohort in 2016, where I very much remember other participants who I have stayed in touch with to this day in many cases. At the residential, it was the first of its kind for me where I was in the room of people with a range of experience in disability and issues which we felt to be pertinent to the lives of disabled people. One of the leads that devised SfC in the first place, and was working at Scope, was able to draw on much of her own personal insights on campaigning as a disabled person and the residential we had equipped us in media training, historic milestones and (most importantly!) the tools to create an effective campaign!

Jack on the inaugural #ScopeForChange programme

In the time I was on the programme, I was invited to Vienna and spoke at the home of the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) and supported the planning for the next phase of their ‘End the Awkward’ campaign. My campaign became focused on autism and museums, where as well as providing support and consultation to a some of these places in my region and beyond, it has allowed me to build new networks that have opened new opportunities for me to this day!

I additionally lend a hand with my fellow SfC peers, who have campaigned around surviving violent acts to invisible conditions, which are often misunderstood.

Though the programme seems to almost end just as it begins, I have gained an enormous amount in relation to my own networks and campaigning abilities.”

Thanks to Jack for that contribution!

The training took place over the weekend of the 10th — 12th in Loughborough, at the Burleigh Court Hotel and Conference Centre, on the Loughborough University Campus.

We learned about using video for maximum impact, identifying and influencing key stakeholders, and digital campaigning with social media.

We had all the programme content printed individually in the format that would help us

We heard from Bal Deol, a fantastic campaigner who said enough was enough with taxis in her local area charging her extra and discriminating against her due to her impairment. It was enlightening to hear about her experience, especially her strategy when persuading her MP and local councilors that there even was an issue. I asked her how she maintained her resilience when speaking with those who might doubt your position, and she spoke about how she always felt the need to push through doubt — even going to the BBC for an undercover investigation to prove what was happening! Gathering evidence is vital to any campaign, and the councilor had to take her seriously when presented with it so clearly.

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Sky Yarlett from the Parliamentary Outreach Service

We also heard from Sky Yarlett from the Parliamentary Outreach Service, who educated us about the ins and outs of the UK Parliamentary system, including both Houses and engaging with calls for evidence from government consultations and Select Committee investigations.

The hotel was accessible and the planning of the programme took into account all of our individual needs. All staff were proactive in anticipating needs and providing support. It was refreshing not having to justify your needs or feel embarrassed to speak up about something. There was trigger warnings before upsetting / violent content in a video, which was so helpful for me as I have PTSD around violence. I took myself out of the room for a few minutes and came back for the wider discussion, having all the opportunity to get involves despite my difficulties with watching the content. This is the true definition of inclusion.

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The food was pretty good, too. Had many a pudding!

My boyfriend was also able to come with me and stay for the weekend, which was probably a deal breaker for me coming up to Loughborough. I wouldn’t have felt confident on a new journey to a far away place, which would cause my anxiety disorders to flare up. He was able to get involved in the training, meals with the other campaigners and their supporters, and the pub quiz on the last night (which my team won :P). This was helpful for me, as I sometimes find it hard to socialise for long periods and rely on him to carry on conversations when I tire out. Scope paid for both of our travel and stay at the hotel, which I am grateful for.

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Winners! (With an almost perfect score :P)

I was supported by the wonderful Miriam Steiner throughout the weekend, having time to break out of the main space to talk about how I’m finding the weekend and to have an in depth chat about my campaign idea. Miriam is a campaigner who works at Scope specifically for the #ScopeForChange campaign, so we have a dedicated person to help with all our needs during the next 6 months of getting our campaigns up and running.

Which brings me to the actual campaigns! There were so many inspiring ideas over the weekend. From the levels of exclusion of autistic children from education, to making the world flat, to improving accessibility of nightclubs. I will link all the campaigners’ social accounts at the bottom of this blog so ensure you’re on board. My campaign is around getting more neurodiverse people into accessible employment, that meets their needs and provides engaging, rewarding work, called Neurodiversity Works. I have been developing a website (NeurodiversityWorks.uk) which is very much under construction, which I am looking forward to launching soon! Keep your eyes peeled.

For me, the most inspiring thing about the weekend overall, was the support we received as individuals. It felt as if we were living in a genuinely inclusive world for the weekend, Scope’s employees truly live their ideals around disability rights, and I know a bunch of us were sad to leave and go back to the ‘real world’. Luckily, we’re taking our campaigns with us, to plan and to be supported by the wide Scope network — so that world will be changing!!

It has taken me a while to write this post as I have been busy with the Autism Exchange internship scheme, and using any spare time to plan my Neurodiversity Works campaign. I also had the opportunity to meet the Minister for the Constitution from the UK Government, Chloe Smith MP, with Scope last week — make sure to follow the blog and Twitter accounts @AmyAspie and @_Neurodiversity to keep up to date with my campaigning journey!

Make sure to also follow all those mentioned in the blog:

Scope for Change Campaigners:

Speakers from the Scope for Change programme

And of course please follow Scope at @Scope 

Published by Amy Walker

Neurodiversity Works blog features news, interviews and creative work relating to neurodiversity at work

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