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Inspiring Communicator Awards 2020

Who would want to walk in the shoes of the Inspiring Communicator Awards judges? It’s a joyous experience to read such incredible nominations and a heart-breaking job to have to choose between them. But choose we must.

As always this year’s winners are truly exceptional. But in a year that has been by no means easy for anyone they really have gone above and beyond, working with boundless energy, enthusiasm, and a determination to get things done

Inspiring teams and communities around the country, and indeed the world, these shining stars of the charity community have displayed great tenacity and empathy throughout 2020. Using innovation and creativity they have championed the work of their charities through the crisis while empowering all those around them to do the same.

In an extraordinary year these individuals have really stepped up to the plate, coping with the loss of face to face comms and finding new ways for people to access services and engage online. They have made the impossible seem possible in the face of uncertainty and change and their stories make us feel proud to be part of a sector that continually pushes for positive social change no matter what.

We hope you enjoy reading about this year’s amazing winners. A huge well done and thank you to all the people who took time to nominate. We couldn’t do this without you.

Adeela Warley
CEO, CharityComms

Winners

Alana Genge
Communications manager, Health in Mind
Alissa Johnson
Senior digital officer, Mayhew
Amelia Chambers
Marketing and communications manager, St Barnabas Lincolnshire
Charlotte Gallagher
Programme manager , Breadwinners
Dee Russell
Content lead, Parkinson’s UK
Fiona Brydon
Head of communications and digital, Cruse Bereavement Care
Joy Shu’aibu
Director of programme operations Nigeria, Sightsavers
Lindsay Dalton
Head of partnerships, development and training, PACE
Scott Roberts
Media and communications manager London, Barnardo’s
Sumi Limbu
communications officer, United World Schools Kathmandu, Nepal
Tereza Litsa
Social media manager and trainer, Lightful
Tracey Bleakley
CEO, Hospice UK

Alana Genge

Communications manager, Health in Mind

Alana’s creativity shines in everything she does and she approaches each area of work with great innovation and creativity.

Always using inspiring communications to champion Health in Mind’s work Alana is an extraordinary communicator ensuring the charity is giving the community reassurance and clear information both through lockdown and beyond.

Alana has the ability to make things happen and keeps everyone motivated even in the face of uncertainty. During lockdown she managed new support service Bridge to Support’s launch, and oversaw creation of 20+ COVID-19 resources to help people look after mental health, cope with working from home and fight loneliness by staying connected. On top of all that she created a 100 days of lockdown timeline demonstrating Health in Mind’s impact during the pandemic and highlighting why charities like them are never more needed.

With a creativity that shines in everything she does, when faced with the loss of face-to-face comms Alana found innovative ways to engage people. Starting the #WritingToSayHello campaign, to keep people connected while apart by encouraging them to send each other ‘hello’ postcards, she showed how using different communication methods can help overcome barriers.

Reaching out to new people with clear messages of action is something Alana is an expert at. Lockdown saw her organising successful online engagement events for people to learn about Health in Mind, keeping the website updated on how the charity were delivering services and how to get in touch, and ensuring information was available to referrers. What’s more she kept working with the wider community to disseminate high quality information through engaging social media challenges and managed the launch of iThrive, an online space for mental health and wellbeing in Edinburgh.

Above all though Alana is a manager who is bursting with dedication and warmth, making sure those around her feel supported and able to work at their best. She is collegiate at the core and has given a lot of time to help others in the charity sector be better communicators. For example as an active member of the Third Sector Working Group Charities Against Hate, she has been openly sharing her expertise with other UK charities to help fight hate speech.

Alana always goes above and beyond and inspires with her dedication, creativity, and ability to make things happen despite whatever hurdles are thrown her way.

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Alissa Johnson

Senior digital officer, Mayhew

Alissa has an unparalleled handle on the best cat and dog puns in the game!

The backbone of Mayhew’s comms team Alissa has unlimited pools of creativity that she pours into her passion for improving animal welfare.

Since starting as a communications assistant five years ago, Alissa has really made a mark. She is credited with creating amazing photography, videos, digital and social content, and magazine articles that have kept Mayhew’s channels vibrant and engaging. Over the years she has also stepped up to manage Mayhew’s social channels – delivering a clear strategy, devising inspiring cross-channel campaigns and growing their Instagram following from 6k to 24k.

This year Alissa took on responsibility for the charity’s digital channels, content strategy and campaigns, and adopted a line management role – all during a global pandemic. But that’s not all, at a time when content and process have not been smooth sailing Alissa worked quickly to launch an emergency Covid appeal in April. This social campaign brought in over £10k for care packages for pet owners in need. All this, while also finding new ways to engage supporters and volunteers online, and maintaining high standards of content creation while working remotely.

During the pandemic Alissa has also led on a social action campaign encouraging people to learn about London’s feral cat population and do their bit in looking out for them at a time when charity capacity is reduced. This has reached over 250k people, with over 40k engagements on social media, and has been vital to supporting animal welfare.

This passionate volunteer cat foster carer, with an unparalleled handle on the best cat and dog puns in the game, is also a driving force for positive change. Flying the flag for engaging with social issues affecting us all she has been carving out time in her busy week to work on the new Charities Against Hate Speech. Drawing on her own experience of keeping staff morale high and being resilient in the face of online abuse, Alissa is on the working group building a sector framework to ensure charities and supporters are free from hate on social media.

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Amelia Chambers

Marketing and communications manager, St Barnabas Lincolnshire

Whatever is thrown at her Amelia will look at how a situation can be fixed as opposed to focusing on the negatives.

Known for her inspiring leadership and innovative way of thinking Amelia has been pivotal in the lockdown period of change. Whatever is thrown at her, she is always professional and will look at how a situation can be fixed as opposed to focusing on the negatives.

During the pandemic Amelia has juggled managing a team that was halved due to furlough and home schooling her five-year-old while leading the Hospice’s communications to ensure supporters were updated with new developments.

Showing the importance of moving the Hospice forwards even during uncertain times Amelia has truly championed the power of digital. Her hard work has seen the Hospice experience a rapid increase in social media engagement levels since April, receiving their highest ever engagement on a Facebook post and reaching some130,000 people. Plus she won a business case to work with a digital marketing agency to further increase engagement, event sign ups, and sales.

On top of all this, lockdown saw Amelia attending directive level hospice meetings and creating a comms strategy to ensure updated visiting guidance and to announce temporary charity shops closures. All while championing new cost-saving ways of working with ideas like converting internal newsletters into videos for remote staff, and developing a reduced size annual/impact report in video format.

A real team player Amelia has been working with the Head of Fundraising during the pandemic, helping with the Hospice’s first fully digital appeal – an urgent Crisis Appeal raising over £38,000 – after the cancellation of fundraising events. Stepping in when most of the Fundraising team were furloughed, she has also been taking a more active role in the planning and delivery of virtual initiatives. By developing ‘On Yer Bike’ – an accessible event for all ages that brought in an incredible £22,000 – Amelia’s energy and creativity has led to the engagement of a whole new audience in physical fundraising.

Alongside the work that Amelia does for the Hospice, she also volunteers in her spare time as Marketing Trustee at the Hospice Income Generation Network. A role in which she supports people across the hospice sector to be better overall communicators, as well as learning a lot herself.

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Charlotte Gallagher

Programme manager , Breadwinners

Charlotte strives continuously to use comms to support some of the most vulnerable in our society.

Charlotte’s dedication to supporting young refugees, many of whom are without their families, as they start their education and life in the UK is truly inspiring.

Continuously striving to use comms to support some of the most vulnerable in our society Charlotte is always there for all those that Breadwinners support. Maintaining fantastic, consistent lines of communication between mentees and mentors when it comes to their market stalls, skills development workshops and special events – she lives and breathes good comms,

Most recently Charlotte’s commitment to helping young refugees has seen her rise to the challenge of supporting the charity and its young people in new and innovative ways amidst the pandemic. Tirelessly championing Breadwinners’ work during Coronavirus she has flexed and transformed the charity’s programmes to a new virtual format. A format that has enabled beneficiaries to attend accredited online classes covering areas like; finance, food safety and hygiene, and interviewing. More than this though she has also been spearheading new online programme “Proofers” – which involves managing the charity’s new e-commerce door-to-door- delivery of bread.

Charlotte’s dedication has enabled Breadwinners to support 15 young refugees during these hard times. And in particular her setting up of a process for training and upskilling beneficiaries to become Online Sales Representatives as part of “Proofers” has directly led to the support of six young refugees. A programme where participants, who had never used phone calls or emails in a work environment before, practice new skills by making hours of calls as they learn to build strong relationships with customers and supporters.

Charlotte’s capacity to create, support and run innovative programmes from scratch Is something that continually inspires.

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Dee Russell

Content lead, Parkinson’s UK

Dee inspires colleagues to push standards higher and better articulate what the charity is trying to achieve and then absolutely go for it.

With her endless enthusiasm and commitment to making the charity sector better Dee inspires all those around her.

Receiving three nominations Dee, and her fearlessness in the face of uncertainty, has clearly made a mark. Her ability to make the impossible seem possible has seen her steer Parkinson’s UK’s content team through the pandemic. While juggling work, family, and a MA research project designed to help small charities with fundraising campaigns, Dee has always found time to go the extra mile during the pandemic including raising £3,000 for the 2.6 Challenge by shaving her head.

A catalyst for positive change, Dee has ensured things haven’t stood still in the crisis. Pushing ahead with plans to unite colleagues with a more cohesive content strategy, she has championed the charity’s respond to changing needs and developed new ways to support people with Parkinson’s. Leading a united, four nation approach to delivering relevant content about coronavirus for people with Parkinson’s her clear and consistent comms has succeeded where the Government has failed.

Dee’s ability to motivate and enthuse helped her develop and deliver an innovative and creative Emergency Appeal that amplified the voices of service users. Combining genuine user content with powerful messaging led by Dee, the appeal demonstrated how people with Parkinson’s may have lost in person support, but members of the community and volunteers were rallying around to provide phone or virtual support. The campaign exceeded its £1.2m target, inspired more traditional service users to embrace new ways of accessing support, and was “a concept that really felt true” to the charity, brand and community, and gave everyone “something to rally behind.”

Dee has also enabled the acceleration of the charity’s use of data and insight. Leading organisation-wide data synthesis, championing an insight-led approach, and meeting people’s needs in the face of challenge and uncertainty. This has led to the delivery of a first for the charity – a special self-serve tool on the website that allows people to choose the topics they need help with during the pandemic.

Collaborating widely across teams and functions while handling a team facing reduced capacity and increased workload, Dee’s leadership is truly inspiring. Her love of asking questions and empowering others means she also finds time to help others both at work and in the sector more widely – sharing knowledge and challenges on social media and as in panel debates. Above all though she inspires everyone at Parkinson’s UK to push standards higher and better articulate what the charity is trying to achieve and then absolutely go for it.

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Fiona Brydon

Head of communications and digital, Cruse Bereavement Care

Fiona has gone above and beyond, ensuring team wellbeing and morale remain a priority.

By ensuring staff and volunteer wellbeing is emphasized across all communication channels, Fiona has shown the importance of prioritising self-care for those offering vital support in a time of national emergency.

Playing an integral role in steering Cruse Bereavement Care through Coronavirus’ challenging times Fiona uses compassion and understanding to ensure service delivery does not come at the cost of staff welfare. Supporting the COO in taking the reins when the pandemic hit she was instrumental in empathetically communicating fast-moving changes in working practice while supporting her team.

As Cruse completely overhauled the way they provided support to bereaved people overnight Fiona ensured that, despite an ever-increasing workload, team wellbeing and morale remained a priority. Whether quickly identifying internal and external communications strategy changes, determining key messages, or delegating tasks to her small team, she always goes above and beyond to support others.

Facing massive demand for services as the number of people dying in tragic circumstances grows, and bereaved people face painful restrictions and isolation, is not easy. But within three days of lockdown Cruse had created a comprehensive and regularly updated coronavirus section on their website providing vital information and support. More than that though, effective briefing led to the ability to quickly respond to media queries, provide well-prepared spokespeople, and place articles in the press. Plus thanks to Fiona recruiting a new Digital Lead, and quickly incorporating them into the team remotely, Cruse has been able to work on digital development – integrating web chat as an additional support channel.

A huge professional and personal support to colleagues Fiona is a source of invaluable advice to others. And her reassuring and supportive tone, while effectively communicating constant changes that were a source of worry for volunteers during lockdown has not gone unnoticed. A recent internal comms survey showed high levels of engagement and appreciation for how everyone had been kept informed which no doubt was helped by Fiona’s weekly update emails.

Checking people are coping, always being aware of the dangers of burning out, and constantly inspiring staff to do their best, Fiona has is a shining beacon of support for all those who know her.

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Joy Shu’aibu

Director of programme operations Nigeria, Sightsavers

Joy is constantly motivating colleagues to go the extra mile.

Always thinking ahead and ready to respond strategically to any challenges thrown her way, Joy is constantly motivating colleagues to go the extra mile.

Responsible for managing Sightsavers’ neglected tropical disease (NTD) programmes in Nigeria, Joy is helping to lead the fight to control and eliminate this group of painful, poverty-trapping infections.

Rising with positivity to the global challenges of 2020 this inspiring communicator’s leadership qualities were evident in just how quickly and decisively she responded to the pandemic. Within 10 days Joy helped develop Nigeria’s concept note in response to the pandemic, ensuring the provision of support as requested from national COVID-19 plans. She has been crucial to the development of the COVID-19 response in Nigeria supporting negotiation and diplomacy with the country’s complex devolved four state level ministry of health teams throughout.

Working alongside various partners Joy has aided in producing culturally appropriate COVID awareness campaigns in Nigeria, helping develop key messages focusing on the need to point communities to the facts of COVID-19. Ensuring messages are accessible and inclusive has been vital and materials like COVID-19 related posters, billboards and TV advertisements were all created in local languages.

Joy’s commitment to eliminate NTDs and her ability to help develop strategic communications to respond to COVID-19 is truly inspiring. Having led a presentation at the virtual NTD NGO Network (NNN) Conference on the COVID response experience in Nigeria she is also leading her team to gather case studies for a publication on COVID response and its impact on NTD programmes.

More than anything though Joy engages on a personal level to make sure everyone feels listened to and included as every great communicator should.

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Lindsay Dalton

Head of partnerships, development and training, PACE

Tenacious and determined Lindsay has been busy revolutionising the way PACE delivers training in lockdown.

An inspirational leader, Lindsay has helped PACE rise from COVID-19 stronger, more robust, and with a wider reach and more sustainable future.

Tenacious and determined Lindsay has been busy revolutionising the way Parents Against Child Exploitation (PACE) delivers training in lockdown. Embracing new technology and significantly increasing the charity’s reach while supporting staff to safely deliver front-line support to families in crisis.

Playing an integral role in helping PACE find new ways to deliver vital front-line support during the pandemic Lindsay has overseen the management of seven parent liaison officers as they adapt how they work. The officers support families affected by criminal and sexual exploitation in multi-agency teams in the North of England so this has meant adapting home visits to remote, acquiring PPE and embedding a system of continuous communication to reduce isolation.

Lindsay has been instrumental in transforming PACE’s delivery of training to front-line professionals during the crisis – switching to an online delivery model. An essential reinvention of the service this has enabled the charity to continue bringing in a much-needed revenue stream and helped them keep raising awareness at a time when reports of online abuse and child exploitation were on the rise.

Creating a wider audience awareness of what PACE does has became even more critical in these tough times but Lindsay has helped make this possible. As well as adapting training delivery, Lindsay was responsible for writing and filming a series of webinars about Child Exploitation that the charity has been promoting in their new learning management system.

All of the transformation work Lindsay has done has quadrupled the number of delegates accessing the charity’s Accredited Award in Child Sexual Exploitation Award (ACSEP) – the UK’s only advanced Level 4 course about Child Sexual Exploitation which Lindsay developed and launched three years ago. An amazing and well deserved feat that has been aided by Lindsay’s determination to ensure participants had the most visually engaging online training experience.

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Scott Roberts

Media and communications manager London, Barnardo’s

Scott makes sure young people have meaningful and fulfilling participation.

Someone who makes the impossible possible Scott is always keen to use his wealth of experience to help others.

With a strong creative energy and dynamic comms approach, Scott is truly committed to audience experience. Helping to keep Barnardo’s pushing forward creatively in a tough year, 2020 has seen Scott spearheading the launch of new online station Barnardo’s Radio in lockdown. Featuring pop music and pre-recorded messages from young people, staff and volunteers it has had over 3,000 streams since it’s April launch.

Another inspiring thing Scott has achieved this year was arranging for a Barnardo’s young carer to meet pop star Billie Eillish. Working closely with the service he built up a strong rapport with the young people and project workers and knew instantly which young person would benefit the most from a surprise visit to Capital FM to meet the star. The story went global via MailOnline with the video streaming over eight million times and it even led to a Skype interview with Access Hollywood. It was an incredible 48 hours and Scott was the person who made it happen.

But Scott is not just someone who goes above and beyond to excel at creating fantastic content; he also makes sure young people have meaningful and fulfilling participation. Working with a severely disabled young artist In his previous role at Haven House Children’s Hospice Scott was instrumental in helping the artist achieve his goal of raising funds for the hospice by creating a website which allowed him to promote and sell his artwork. The young person is now 20 and no longer uses the hospice, but Scott remains in touch with his family.

Scott is also a firm believer in helping other professionals in the charity sector. From sharing his knowledge in a Charity Comms blog about podcasts, to advising the media team at Epilepsy Action on their new podcast series Scott is always willing to lend a hand. Plus he also finds time to volunteer as a surf mentor with The Wave Project charity and is training as a Barnardo’s support worker alongside his media role.

A practical visionary and a complete one off in the sector he really does make things happen with his wonderful personality and positive outlook.

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Sumi Limbu

communications officer, United World Schools Kathmandu, Nepal

Sumi is an inspiring storyteller with an instinctive and responsive way of communicating.

Going above and beyond to inspire others with UWS’ vital emergency work during Covid, Sumi has used her powerful storytelling skills to find the stories that matter most.

Seeking stories in the remote areas United World Schools operate in, Sumi has utilised low-tech tools; from Whatsapp and Viber to phonecalls, to gather and share stories of community staff and children in Nepal’s schools during lockdown . Championing the power of storytelling she has also been relaying these stories at weekly UWS sessions to keep teams engaged and ensure supporters feel valued.

Coronavirus has made it challenging to communicate how the charity are ensuring children continue to be prioritized and the organisation had to quickly shift it’s approach from educating children to water and sanitation. Luckily, Sumi was on hand to help. An inspiring storyteller her work on UWS’ COVID WASH appeal prompted other countries to be better storytellers too and has contributed to the success of this now fully funded appeal.

What makes this individual particularly special though is how she navigates traditional hierarchies and social norms to access stories and raise the visibility of UWS’ work. From convening webinars and live screenings – including one from UWS Nepal’s school during World Education Week that had over 200 global attendees – to seeking out latest innovations Sumi is always looking for the best ways to help others share their experiences.

More than anything though Sumi has an instinctive and responsive way of communicating the charity’s work, seeking out every opportunity to share stories and inspire. Drawing on her own knowledge she encourages local staff in Kathmandu to be better storytellers and aims high to seeks out opportunities for media attention.
Respected by her colleagues globally, Sumi is also part of the Young Women Writers Political Literacy Institute, along with 20 others changemakers in Nepal. She is a Social – Gender Activist and part of Untold Period Stories, where she communicates compelling messages on issues such as period poverty.

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Tereza Litsa

Social media manager and trainer, Lightful

Tereza is going above and beyond to assist everyone in any way that she can with her skills.

An all round amazing communicator Tereza’s professionalism and high standards allow her to deliver exceptional work in all things digital.

Passionate about the charity sector and always eager to support it, Tereza has been working non-stop through lockdown to help fellow charity communicators. As the world adjusted to lockdown she launched a series of free webinars and blogs to support charities with everything from finding tools and moving services online, to tips for using Zoom and advice on taking care of mental health. Always making sure everything she produced was full of fantastic tips, advice and resources.

A strong believer in collaboration, Tereza is excellent at making connections and seeing the possibilities for working together. Nowhere is this more evident than in her role at Lightful where she supports 100s of charities with their digital development. As a social media manager and trainer she helps others be more confident in their digital skill and champions the need to be more digital – even providing practical tips on how at events like this year’s Fundraising Everywhere conference.

In the face of uncertainty Tereza manages to stand out with her ability to make things happen. Providing the best support and communication she has continued to train charities all over the world that join Lightful’s 12-month BRIDGE programme, helping them build digital capacity during these challenging times. She is part of a team supporting 200+ charities as part of an emergency COVID-19 cohort in partnership with GlobalGiving and The Gates Foundation helping them improve their digital messaging.

With an unfaltering dedication to the tech for good sector Tereza knows how to use her communication skills to make an impact. One of her passions is making social media more inspiring and this has seen her run the popular #ReclaimSocial campaign for the last three years. Encouraging millions of people to use social media in a more impactful way the campaign is a great example of how Tereza advocates for the power of social media at every turn and brings much-needed positivity to the platform.

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Tracey Bleakley

CEO, Hospice UK

Tracey offers visible leadership, clear direction and reassurance to people across the country and inspires people care about death, dying and bereavement.

Delivering one of the most successful national charity responses to COVID-19, Tracey’s brilliant communication skills inspire Hospice UK to deliver in ways the charity has never done at such scale.

A passionate leader, Tracey has achieved incredible things while leading her team virtually at a hugely challenging time. She personally negotiated with Government – securing up to £200 million in funding to keep hospices going and provide vital support to the NHS at the height of the COVID crisis. Then by working with different government departments she even helped make the announcement in the national daily press briefing and generated extensive follow up press coverage with 360.8m Opportunities To See and thousands of articles.

But it has not been easy. At the height of the crisis, hospices in England were reaching as many as 57,000 people in the community daily, helping to keep them out of hospital and free up capacity in the NHS, Having secured funding Hospice UK distributed funds directly to hospices in England, in a first for a charity, to ensure that within days funding had reached the front-line to care for people during lockdown. It was only through Tracey galvanizing her teams that this was possible.

Tracey’s tireless commitment to helping people in lockdown continued as she turned her attention to tackling the lack of PPE for hospice staff who were putting themselves and their families at risk to care for people – making sure it made the national news. Working as a team Hospice UK, under Tracey’s stewardship, set up PPE distribution hubs across England, negotiating with NHS England to ensure hospices were added to the distribution list.

Teaming up with CEOs from Samaritans, Mind and MHI, Tracey also helped set up Our Frontline to provide mental health support to frontline key workers dealing with COVID. – a campaign that had 130,000 online views in it’s first four months.

Offering visible leadership, clear direction and reassurance to people across the country, Tracey inspires all she meets. Making people care about death, dying and bereavement is not an easy task but this CEO does just that by talking the talk and walking the walk in a way that makes others sit up and listen.

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Judges

Adeela Warley
CEO, CharityComms

Kirsty Marrins
Trustee, CharityComms

Pip Gardner
Trustee, CharityComms

Karen Hobbs
Cancer information officer, The Eve Appeal

Tom Madders
Director of communications, campaigns and participation, YoungMinds

Zoe Guy
Senior digital content officer, YoungMinds


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