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Building citizen power with Grapevine Coventry and Warwickshire

Act Build Change's work to organise for systemic change with a disability justice approach

Stephanie Wong | 03 Aug 2022

People marching with a sign saying "Fight for Your Right to Party"

Image credit: John Whitmore.

Building citizen power with Grapevine Coventry and Warwickshire

Act Build Change teaches leadership explicitly. There are lessons in leadership for everyone because of the depth and breadth of the real stories they tell. Their credibility is huge because of that.

— Clare Wightman, CEO, Grapevine Coventry & Warwickshire

Since 2019 we have been working with Grapevine to organise for systemic change with people experiencing isolation, poverty and disadvantage in Coventry and Warwickshire. All of the work centres a disability justice approach and a significant amount of the work is led by those with visible and non visible disabilities.

We have run specific training programmes for Grapevine, attended core actions and negotiations to advance their goals, supported by regular coaching support with their organisers. This training encompassed all the components of community organising training, designed bespoke for Grapevine. Such as;

  • Introductory, senior and advanced community organising training
  • Building teams, identifying and winning campaigns
  • 1-to-1 training
  • Working through tension with care
  • Setting boundaries

We supported the recruitment and coaching of a community organising team to build a network of 3,000 citizens and dozens of organisations to build power and transform the neighbourhoods they live in. This resulted in a vibrant coalition delivering local wins like libraries stocking books with new positive narratives on disability to inclusive club nights through a “fight for the right to party” campaign. We supported Grapevine to go national and campaign around the Online Safety Bill and negotiate directly with Facebook on online safety, receiving local and national coverage. 

While this work has resulted in large scale and local change it has also resulted in individual transformations in a context where 1 in 3 disabled young people spend (on average) just one hour outside each weekend. This work is as much about the connection, leadership, giggles and love - as it is about the fights for change.

“When we first met Tom [a participant] he said ‘I had a friend once but I don’t have one any more. Eighteen months later and he’s an active member of Coventry Youth Activists, their latest campaign calls out the Facebook hate crime reporting process. He is also a key player in the Collaboration Station team. He doesn’t take no for an answer and isn’t afraid to hold you to account – as Stephanie will tell you. He also now has a group of people he can call friends. We could all learn so much from Tom” — Mel Smith, Deputy CEO Grapevine 

Find more about this work here:

How Do We Connect Each Other For Good?