How Do We Build a Movement for Change When Political Fatigue is the Dominant Sentiment?

17 January 2024

Alicia Walker, Head of Policy, Research and Campaigns at Centrepoint. Trustee at the Connection at St. Martin’s. Chair of the Board of Governors at St. Martin in the Fields High School for Girls.

2024 will be the year of elections. With local, mayoral and national elections all set to dominate the political agenda this year, and in the midst of a cost of living crisis that is impacting everyone, the challenge of galvanising people around issues on our doorstep is all the more acute.

In the last three years alone, we have navigated the impact of a global pandemic, two sovereigns, four prime ministers, a spiralling cost of living and a revolving door of cabinet ministers aiming to oversee complex and urgent social policy agendas. People are tired. So how do we build a movement for change when political fatigue is the dominant sentiment?

We have to think differently.

(Most) people may now have taken down their Christmas trees but, to illustrate my point, I’d like to bring you back to the festive period. Specifically, I’d like to take you back to Christmas 2022 and the concept of the eagerly anticipated John Lewis Christmas advert. Everyone gets excited about the question of whether and how 

In the last three years alone, we have navigated the impact of a global pandemic, two sovereigns, four prime ministers, a spiralling cost of living and a revolving door of cabinet ministers aiming to oversee complex and urgent social policy agendas. People are tired. So how do we build a movement for change when political fatigue is the dominant sentiment?

We have to think differently.

(Most) people may now have taken down their Christmas trees but, to illustrate my point, I’d like to bring you back to the festive period. Specifically, I’d like to take you back to Christmas 2022 and the concept of the eagerly anticipated John Lewis Christmas advert. Everyone gets excited about the question of whether and how John Lewis is going to make them both cry and feel warm and fuzzy inside.

John Lewis is going to make them both cry and feel warm and fuzzy inside. And, as someone working in charity campaigns, I eagerly anticipate seeing what the campaign will look like. How will the audience be engaged? What will be the message? But, in 2022, something extraordinary happened.John Lewis is going to make them both cry and feel warm and fuzzy inside. And, as someone working in charity campaigns, I eagerly anticipate seeing what the campaign will look like. How will the audience be engaged? What will be the message? But, in 2022, something extraordinary happened.

And, as someone working in charity campaigns, I eagerly anticipate seeing what the campaign will look like. How will the audience be engaged? What will be the message? But, in 2022, something extraordinary happened.

A 20 year old videographer and content creator created a Christmas ad, put it on YouTube and, overnight, it was set to take over John Lewis with 9m overnight views. It also captured the attention of the BBC, Ladbible and the Sun. The ad – which doesn’t ask viewers to buy or do anything – highlighted the true reality of the cost of living at Christmas in 2022 (this year, it is even worse). In three minutes, it tells a powerful story of grief, poverty, loneliness, trauma and a father-son duo just trying to get by. The ad ends with the tagline “the magic of Christmas is made, not bought”.

What does this have to do with tackling issues on our doorstep? Policy, advocacy and philanthropy must work together to do what that advert did in three minutes: Capture the cultural psyche, empathise with societal exhaustion and deliver up what people need based on the reality of the world we currently live in.

I believe that at the heart of what all policymakers, researchers and strategic leaders within the third sector and public bodies should be thinking about right now – is the question of how to tackle the systemic problems within our society that have driven a public mental health crisis so acute that it led to millions of people across the country empathising with that Christmas ad. I believe that policy and philanthropy partnerships should provide an answer to that question. We all have a role to play in ending systemic issues within our society. In such a significant election year, let’s work together to inspire a nation to be part of the movement for change so that political leaders have no choice but to follow suit.

The challenge in making any of this happen is that our political leaders are distracted – and I don’t mean that in a purely controversial sense – we are in a cost of living crisis not seen for decades and it’s difficult to get politicians and the public to see and invest in the bigger picture when we are all just trying to get by.

But we are running out of time. We all entered 2023 somewhat depleted after dealing with multiple crises either personally or professionally as we reckoned with the fallout from Brexit and Covid. And now, young people, vulnerable families, refugees, and asylum seekers and those with long terms health conditions are facing even worse in 2024.

So we need to work together.  

Let’s work together to inspire society to believe that a better, healthier, fairer society is possible. What better time to do that than when we are all about to go to the ballot box together to decide our political future?

But we are running out of time. We all entered 2023 somewhat depleted after dealing with multiple crises either personally or professionally as we reckoned with the fallout from Brexit and Covid. And now, young people, vulnerable families, refugees, and asylum seekers and those with long terms health conditions are facing even worse in 2024.

So we need to work together.  

Let’s work together to inspire society to believe that a better, healthier, fairer society is possible. What better time to do that than when we are all about to go to the ballot box together to decide our political future?