Celebrating Success: The First Cohort of ‘Changemakers in Turbulent Times’

Last autumn, we spent several months travelling across the UK to speak to community leaders and organisations working for social change. How were the various crises facing the UK – the cost of living, economic slowdown, growing social divides – impacting our communities? And more importantly, what could we do to support them?

Changemakers in Turbulent Times was born out of those conversations; a 10-week programme to resource community leaders who reported feeling exhausted, burnt out and isolated. We selected six pilot locations across the four nations of the UK where we saw the greatest need and interest in our programme – Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow, Slough, Newham in London and Bradford.

Supported by the National Lottery Community Fund, we sought to create a network of community leaders who can spark transformation, unity, and positive change in their communities. We adapted skills that have been honed over decades of peacebuilding work around the world to best suit their needs and desires.

We’re delighted to share with you, with help from the Belong Network, some remarkable statistics showcasing the impact of this programme on the UK’s changemakers. As an organisation, this project inspires us daily, so we’re pleased to share with you what we’ve been able to achieve.

About the Changemakers in Turbulent Times Programme

Before we dive into the success of the Changemakers programme, here is some helpful background information about the initiative.

Running in six pilot cities – Belfast, Glasgow, Bradford, Slough, Newham in London, and Cardiff, we connected with activists, community leaders, people working for social organisations or emergent changemakers. With the National Lottery’s funding, we were able to work with 48 changemakers in each cohort and connect them to a powerful panel of inspiring guest speakers and community leaders.

Over 10 weeks, the changemakers embarked on a journey inspired by our founder, Dr Scilla Elworthy. The course took the participants through an adapted version of Scilla’s Mighty Heart programme – with a focus on how to transform anger into action, take a stand on issues we care about, and befriend our inner critics.

As we designed the programme, we knew we needed to connect participants with the right resources, connections, and skills that reflect the turbulent times faced by changemakers in the UK today. With this in mind, we’re proud to say that our programme was championed by well-known guest speakers such as Jean Paul Lederach, an iconic conflict transformation expert, Rob Deeks, a well-known youth activist, Jo Berry, an inspirational speaker on peace, Selina Hayles, founder of Refuweegee, and more.

Lastly, at the end of the 10-week journey, participants could apply for up to £2,000 in seed grants to kickstart or innovate their own community initiatives. In the first cohort, Plan for Peace was able to contribute up to £23,500 to an array of projects.

A Look at the Transformative Impact of ‘Changemakers in Turbulent Times

Aside from the high calibre of applications for the programme, we were blown away by the transformative nature of the Changemakers in Turbulent Times’ content. These astounding statistics captured by the Belong Network illuminate the ability of a programme like this to empower UK changemakers and encourage community development. We are proud to showcase our initial findings from the Spring 2023 cohort!

Feeling Empowered to Catalyse Change Increased by 94%
Remarkable transformations were observed among changemakers, as feelings of inspiration surged from 66% to 84%, motivation levels soared from 62% to 79%, and a tangible sense of empowerment increased significantly from 35% to 68%. These shifts reflect a collective readiness to drive change and engage in unified actions for positive impact.

Overwhelm Levels Plunged by 87%
By creating a dynamic community that operates both online and in-person, guided by dedicated Community Connectors and expert facilitators, we achieved a remarkable shift in well-being. The number of changemakers who initially reported feeling ‘very overwhelmed’ reduced significantly, from 39% to just 5%.

Feeling Confident to Take Action Increased by 147%
At the beginning of the programme, only 17% of changemakers considered themselves as ‘very confident’ to manage challenges. However, by the conclusion of the programme, this figure had risen to 42%, reflecting an impressive increase of 147%.

Cross-Sector Connections Elevated by 147%, Inspiring Collaboration
Central to the Changemakers programme was the enhancement of inter-sector relationships and the cultivation of a united and nurtured sense of community. With a 147% increase in connection levels, our initiative was effective in bridging gaps within changemaker networks and fostering mutual support for each other’s initiatives.

Reflecting on these outcomes, our Changemaker Programme Manager, Ruby Kellard, shares her thoughts: “I’m thrilled to see the incredible impact of our Changemakers Programme so far, which aims to offer much-needed space and recognition for the remarkable community leaders and drivers of social change across the UK. It’s been an honour to share a space with so many people tirelessly committed to transforming their communities during times of real turbulence. These findings are a concrete illustration of the powerful change made possible by holding a regular space that prioritises diversity, inclusivity, and the opportunity to connect.”

Plan for Peace - Changemakers in Turbulent Times - Changemakers Spring Cohort (1)

A special and heartfelt “thank you” goes to our amazing Community Connectors, dedicated facilitators, insightful guest speakers, exceptional internal team, and the entire community of fellow changemakers, for making this programme a success. None of this work would have been possible without the National Lottery Community Fund, to whom we are so grateful. Lastly, thank you to Belong Network for their meticulous work in surveying and capturing this data.

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