- Interview by Jason Sayer
- Photographs by Freddie Ardley
Amelia Viney founded the Advocacy Academy to support young leaders from marginalised communities to develop
the knowledge, skills and confidence to create a more fair, just and equal world
What do you do?
We take young people at the sharp end of the failures of our system. They are trained by the best change-makers in the country and we support them to launch and run and win campaigns that will change their lives.
Why do you do it?
Because 88 per cent of young people feel their voices are completely unheard in society and 60 per cent have no idea how decisions are made on their behalf. That leads to policies that fail to reflect the diverse interests of our communities and young people growing up without the life they deserve.
How did you come to be doing what you’re doing?
At 15 I battled for my school to become the first fair-trade school in the country. I went on to lobby on social justice issues in Congress and work for an MP in Westminster. Everyone looked like me: white, though mostly male. Lots of Oxbridge graduates like me. To break the cycle, I had to stop accumulating power and start redistributing it to people who really need it.
What’s your business model?
We are not a business, we are a charity. The question of what a business model is, is a question asked by capitalism. I don’t believe capitalism is the answer. It doesn’t make people happy and isn’t beneficial for the majority of the world.
What barriers have you had to overcome to get where you are today?
Charities are supposed to be apolitical – that’s limiting. Great charity work builds the capacity of people to create systemic change which is inherently political. We’ve had to do a lot of careful thinking about what we can and can’t do and what we are able to do within the letter of the law.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in trying to do your job?
The way Great Britain looks at social justice and activism. In America, for all of its stupidity, everybody is entitled to their say. Here, when I say activism, people think of marches and placards. They don’t see strategic campaigning or 10-year movements. They see it as a niche. I hope it becomes mainstream to fight for a better world.