Food Not Fuel


Yesterday I was invited along to the Action Aid blogger meetup to hear about their work as part of the IF campaign coalition. Having previously done a bit of work for an international development charity working in Africa, I was acutely aware about the issue of hunger. And being a climate change campaigner I have spent a lot of time reading about how climate change will worsen the global food crisis and the poorest people will suffer first, so I went along keen to learn more about the issue.

For those who don’t know already, Enough Food IF is a campaign in the style of ‘Make Poverty History’ and is asking the G8 (the worlds most wealthy countries) to implement a series of measures to help tackle world hunger. This year David Cameron is president of the G8 and therefore has the opportunity to drive real change if he so wishes.

The campaign has set out of big IF’s for world leaders to tackle:

Throughout the evening we heard from a number of speakers including the actress and cook Fay Ripley, Joy an inspirational young Action Aid campaigner from Kenya. And Rachel Beer, who I have known for several years and is a thought leader in charity fundraising and digital.

Fay spoke passionately about the extravagant culture of present giving at children’s parties and how she and her 6 year old decided to ask that parents just donated into a bucket and then with that money through Action Aid they sponsored children and saw what a wonderful difference that money made.

I asked Fay about food waste at the parties and she confirmed that it is terrible and that most parents in her North London circle care very little for it. Being a keen cook Fay assured me that isn’t the case with her parties but it was disheartening to hear that there was such blatant waste of good food. This at time when in the UK food banks are opening at the rate of 3 per week. Further afield the situation is much worse as Joy was about to tell us.

Joy is a 29 year old campaigner from Kenya, she spoke with such raw passion and gave us her first hand account of what it was like growing up when their was literally not enough food to go around. She spoke about how her bigger brothers would eat all of the food and how in her family if someone hesitated with their food another family member would take the food of their plate. She also talked about how people would “bump” round and if your family had food, you would share it with them, I liked that people were willing to share the very little they had with their neighbour.


She then went on to talk about Biofuels, one of the key focuses of the IF campaign and how this has impacted upon communities in Kenya. But first a little bit of background about biofuels:

  • Around 10 years ago biofuels were being touted as a renewable energy source.
  • Biofuels harvest crops which could be used to feed people, once these lands have been used for biofuels, it can take as long as 25 years to be able to grow food on this land again
  • Big oil companies like BP and Shell have invested heavily in Biofuels and lobbied governments to include biofuels as part of the renewable energy mix.
  • There is now scientific consensus that biofuels don’t reduce carbon emissions, in-fact they actually release higher carbon emissions than the fossil fuels they were created to replace.
  • The EU instated a target of having 5% of transport fuels come from Biofuels by 2010, this has helped drive the industry and land grabs.
  • In 2009, the oil company Shell stopped investing in wind and solar power choosing Biofuels as its “renewable” energy investment because it has the potential to generate profits.
  • BP are another big oil company who have invested heavily in biofuels, they are determined to see it succeed.

So in short biofuels a bit of a problem, big oil have invested in developing it and 10 years of intense lobbying has led to laws supporting its use. However in 2011, 10 of the world’s most powerful organisations, including the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank all recommended that G20 governments should  scrap biofuel policies.

Back to Joy, she told us about the extent of the hunger crisis in Kenya, currently 11 million people are going hungry everyday, this doesn’t include people who are partially hungry i.e. they may have one meal a day. She told us about biofuels and how recently a french company displaced 20,000 people through a land grab in order to start producing biofuels. If these people are offered jobs at the plants they are lowest possible roles, paying very poor wages.

Biofuels Infographic

The issue of land grabs is a frightening reality for the whole of Africa not just to fuel biofuels production but to feed the populations of the gulf region and China. Large corporations and governments have been buying up vast regions of land. The people in these areas are not consulted, compensated, simply displaced.

You maybe aware that recently we passed 400ppm of carbon in the atmosphere. Putting it very simply this is seriously bad news in the bid to tackle world hunger. Dr James Hansen one of the leading climate scientists said this in 2008: “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted … CO2 will need to be reduced … to at most 350ppm.”

The continued use of biofuels will see an increase in the carbon emitted into the atmosphere leading to an increase in extreme weather patterns. Floods, droughts, hurricanes will become more common and in arid regions of the world already struggling with poverty. The tougher climate will make water more scarce and farming in difficult conditions even more challenging. It is predicted in the next 50 years climate change will result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and millions of climate refugees.

Last year extreme weather events caused £170 billion in damages, this isn’t taken to into account the emotional trauma and death these ever increasing weather events caused.

Tackling world hunger isn’t easy, even if biofuels are scrapped and the IF campaigns demands are met there will be an unbelievable amount of work to do. But this is a good starting point, and as a country we shouldn’t be supporting an industry which has been found to be bad for the environment, displaces innocent and pulls communities into starvation. With the world population due to expand to 9 billion in by 2050, we need to use land for food no fuel, we need to invest in renewable energy sources and we need to eat less meat to reduce carbon emissions and ensure their is more food to go around.

For too long these corporations, BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil et al, have taken advantage of the people with no voice. They have taken their land, polluted their environment and made huge profits whilst in places like in Kenya 11 million people can will starve everyday. They should feel ashamed. And if the G8 don’t stop the use of biofuels they will be responsible for the continued misery of untold millions.

I will leave you with the words of Joy who I felt was channeling some of the energy of the Suffragette Emily Wilding Davision, 100 years to the day that she stepped in front of the Kings horse to demand votes for women.

Joy was pretty fierce through out and said: “Lets join hands and fight together for the hungry people”.  Well I couldn’t agree more, please share this blog and spread the word about the IF campaign. Or join Action Aid and other NGO’s in Hyde Park this Saturday for an IF campaign rally.

Fun Twitter tools

Recently I have found myself increasingly spending time on twitter evaluation and mapping tools. I have decided to pull quickly pull together a couple of my personal favourites for you to explore.

Mention Map

Likely to inspire alot of oooh’s and ahh’s in the office, this visually dynamic application developed by asterisq allows you to map people or organisations you have recently influenced. The thicker the line the stronger the influence, it also pulls up hashtag’s that the twitter user has been using recently. By clicking on other people you influence “nodes” you can investigate their networks and look at how to extend your reach. I have included a screengrab of my recent influencer’s map.

If I then wanted to investigate my @YoungAchievers friend and colleague @jlowthrop network I would search her twitter handle and I would be able to view a graph of her current network of influencers.

The limitations to this tool is that it only gives you an indication of the people who you are currently influencing, so by no means is this a definitive tool  for mapping the Twitter eco system, but it is well worth regularly investigating who are the current influencers on the people you wish to reach. My personal tip would to be look at journalists and who they are influenced by as this could be a way to get on their radar “not that I would ever do a sneaky thing like that”


This tool allows you to research the popularity of different twitter trends. You are able to search individual topics or compare trends like I have done below with Arsenal and Birmingham City following the football league cup final.


If you are developing a following on Twitter doing it to engage with interesting people either professional or personality or quite often both. Twittersheep enables you to view the most commonly mentioned words in the profile bios of your followers. The premise is simple the bigger the word in the cloud the more popular it is with the in the bio’s of your followers.


This tool allows you to measure the reach of your last 50 tweets, This is a great for measuring the reach of campaigns over a short period of time, including @ replies and impressions of your tweets served up followers you have been influencing.

This list of resources is by no means exhaustive and only skims the surface, they are just a few of my favourites. New analysis and planning tools crop up regularly so worth checking out resources such a Mashable, E-Consultancy and a new tech update blog from Beautiful World’s  @ashleynclarke and all tweets from @nfptweetup

Any questions drop me a tweet at @damienclarkson

You may also be interested in a list of some of my favourite Charity tweeters

Why young get a bad press?

I was intrigued to read the Guardian’s piece on ‘why young people get a bad press the reasons are fairly clear in my eyes. We live in a culture where scandal sells, sex sells, violence sells, sad facts but true. To report a young person doing something negative is the easy option and one many journalists take. For an example just look at the bestselling book ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ a great book but it has all of the above mentioned qualities in abundance.

In his Guardian article Ally Fogg rightly points out people like to reinforce their pre held cognitive biases. Nothing re-affirms this better than the yearly debacle of A-level and GCSE announcements.

Year on year results are improving, instead of congratulating the students, teachers, the record investment in education by the Labour government and young people understanding the value of academic application at the young age. Yet we too often hear people jumping on the, it was easier in my day bandwagon. One of my favourite headlines was the GCSE results are now worthless as a measure of a school’s success. I am sure a young person reading this would feel their 11 years hard work in the education system was worth it.

I am lucky to be a trustee for the Young Achievers Trust a great charity that recognises the outstanding impact young people have on their community. The young people who get nominated for to receive one of our awards I believe represent most young people in the UK. The 99% campaign recently launched to tackle negative stereotyping of young people shows that under 1% of people under 20 in London are involved with crime.

So the next time you see a bunch of young people acting in a negative way, remember they are the minority. Think about the young people you know personally and how they conduct their lives. I reckon you could in for a pleasant surprise.

Free resources to help Charities with demonstrating impact

Free  resources for charities

It now seems clear the voluntary sector is entering a new age of austerity. The OCS recent announcement that only 15 of 42 current strategic partners will receive funding next year this is a clear early indication of cuts to come.
Funders more so than ever will be searching for the investments which will yield the greatest ROI.Therefore Charities need to ensure they are effectively demonstrating the impact their work is having on the communities.

This post compiles a couple of useful resources which are free for non-profit organisations. They are a mix of free resources and social media tools all great for shouting about the work your organisation undertakes and communicating with beneficiaries.
The Charities Technology Trust in association with US non profit technology providers Techsoup have teamed up to provide members of the CTX Exchange programme between 2 and 5 free Flickr pro accounts. Flickr is a web site for photo storage which allows you to chronologically tell the story of your organisation through the means of photography. Communication tools let users get comments, notes, and tags on their photos, post them to any blog.
This product is a great way to visually demonstrate the projects your charity is working and the positive impact from the frontline on the lives of beneficiaries.

If you are a registered charity you stand a great chance of being entitled to a Google grant which is a In-Kind advertising programme. Initially you can receive $10000 worth of free Google adwords advertising commonly known as per per click (PPC). This will allow your organisation to be found easier on the web through search engine searches. Planning adword campaigns is relatively simple it works on the premise of bidding for search terms for example children services, depending on how much you bid will dictate whereabouts you appear on the right hand side.
A website is often the first contact that a future funder will have with your charity, ensuring that this is a positive experience could mean a big difference for your charity. The Charity Technology Trust provide excellent free website with a fully functioning content management system. Setting up a website is easy and you can be on your way to having a great new website in under 10 minutes. There are a wide range of templates to choose from and editing your new website is simple using an editor similar to Word and PowerPoint.
2009 was branded the year of Twitter by the media and the “revolution” didn’t go unnoticed by Civil Society. Twitter has developed into a great way to communicate with other charities, potential funders and service beneficiaries. Twitter allows you to expand your network of like minded individuals it is a great way to discover new things happening in your community.
For those who haven’t explored the world of Twitter before here is a short summary about Twitter
Twitter is a micro-blogging tool with a social focus. You can post 140 character messages to people who are interested in you or your organisation – these are your ‘followers’ – and you can also ‘follow’ others whose updates you wish to read.
To get you started try following these organisations:
@ ThirdSectorLab

WordPress is an easy to use blog/website creation tool, it is simple to use but also has the functionality to be quite sophisticated dependent on the user skill level. Blogging is a great way to get your articles picked up by search engines and reach new audiences.
Foursquare is a mobile geo location application which allows you to check in to different areas of your city. This could be a train station, your charity or your favourite café. When you check in you get rewarded with points and badges, you can also see where you’re friends who use foursquare in last checked in. Organisations are already using this application to offer incentives to users. For example I was recently in a large shopping centre and a retailer was offering entry into a prize draw if checked in to their shop. I believe the potential for engagement with beneficiaries could be huge in the future, the buzz around it feels like Twitter did in 2008 before it really took off.

Online Communities

Online communities in the non-profit sector have cropped up in recent times, these are created to allow you as individuals to share ideas and best practice. A couple well worth checking out are which is a free online information resource and e-learning project. Another great network is where infrastructure workers discuss issues affecting the voluntary sector. If you work in marketing and communications The Third Sector PR and Communications network is very popular and a great place to share cutting edge marketing ideas.

This is by no means a definitive guide to what is out there but hopefully it will be a useful starting point for someone. Follow me on

“Oxfam Outreach volunteers respond to Haiti’s plea”

During a cold February evening something pretty special happened at Bar Music Hall in Shoreditch. A group of volunteers mostly comprising of members from Oxfams London Outreach campaigning group got together to arrange a Haiti benefit concert in under 10 days.

Damien Clarkson from KnowHow Nonprofit Co-Organised the event titled Outreach4Haiti and had this to say on the project. “The disaster in Haiti has left millions homeless, basics such food and water are in chronic shortage. This event demonstrated the power of collaboration online between a large number of people who didn’t know each other but shared the same belief that they had to act to help improve living conditions for the people of Haiti. The passion of the other volunteers who helped and generosity of those in attendance was astounding and a real indication of the social responsibility the British public has demonstrated thus far to this crisis”.

Outreach4Haiti saw a great effort from all volunteers who had their own set of skills and pulled on contacts in order to get a variety of things to help, ranging from free raffle gifts to a great venue and set of bands. The event was a major success with over 150 attendees raising £1199.41 towards Oxfam’s Haiti Earthquake appeal. The bands were well received especially Headspace, who were receiving encore requests come the end of their set. If you were unable to attend the event and would like to contribute there is still time to give, please visit

 About the Event: Outreach4Haiti- Are a group of volunteers most of whom volunteer for Oxfam London outreach group. They pulled together to arrange the Outreach4Haiti concert in under 10 days and raised £1199.41, if you would like to contact them you can do so by emailing Damien Clarkson at  or

Bands and comedians who performed at the gig included:

Stickman Army (
Hannah White (
Headspace (

Dead Cannons (

Please visit Oxfam’s ‘Haiti: Drop the Debt’ campaign, calling on the International Monetary Fund to cancel Haiti’s debt:

My top tips on how to do a charity fundraising concert

In October 2009 away from my day job at KnowHow NonProfit I put together a concert as part of Oxjam . The day was made possible by amazing bands and passionate volunteers and friends.

These are my top tips how to deliver a successful and fun event and whilst getting most for your cause of choice.


1) Find a cause you believe in

In my experience the people who work the hardest to achieve maximum results are those who really believe in what they are doing. This applies to charity fundraising, I love music and care about climate change, so I was motivated and passionate from the beginning raise as much for the cause as possible.

2) Involve your friends

Make it fun, at the end of the day you are doing something for a cause you believe in. Sharing ideas and the workload makes organising the event easier. Having people to bounce ideas off and accessing their friendship networks gives you great marketing reach. The more people involved in running the event higher the chance of getting filling the venue as people bring their friends.

3) Don’t under estimate human goodwill

As the old adage goes “if you don’t ask you don’t get” you are organising a fundraiser for a good cause. I found that people we surprisingly willing to give their time or financial and tangible gifts. I was able to negotiate a free venue at the New Cross Inn, free gifts from bands and a percentage of the pubs drink takings and most importantly social media marketing from friends. One tin from chugging made £20 so don’t estimate the value of doing small things.

4) Look after the talent

In the case of my Oxjam all the bands played for free and some travelled a fair distance to attend the gig. I organised some free beers for the bands and gave them lengthy sets. For the headlining act I arranged a interview with Goldsmith University’s student radio. After all they are helping you put on this event if you can do something for them they will be more willing to do future charity gigs or activities in the future.

5) Enhance the power of the web as a marketing tool

Free gig listings, blogs, Facebook, Twitter it is all free and a great way to spread your message. Try not to bombard your group with messages, speak when you have something to say eg a new band. Also ask your friends to invite their friends to join your event group it is amazing how many people you put your event in front of very quickly.

6) Be prepared to be flexible

As always everything will not go to plan, be prepared to improvise on the day and in the build up. Mentally preparing yourself for the odd hiccup on the way makes dealing with them much easier upon arrival.

7) Keep track of the money as you make it

Safeguarding your funds is essential make sure your constantly “bank” your money throughout the day. Keeping a close eye on what you have made is not only sensible but really exciting as you witness how much money you have raised.

8) Involve the charity you are raising funds for

I had fantastic support from Kate Wolfenden who was volunteering as a campaigner for Oxjam. Her climate change campaigning involved everyone and most of us were “blue in the face” by the end of the day and the event attendees went way with a better knowledge of the issue.

9) Most importantly have fun

It doesn’t matter if you make £20 or £1000, you are doing an amazing thing to benefit people less fortunate than you, be proud and enjoy the day.

 If anyone else has some tips please feel free to comment.