Social impact on a big scale
Over the past five years, nearly 20,000 young people across the United Kingdom have reached many thousands of people far and wide through an innovative social impact program called Fixers.
Fixers encourages young people aged 16 to 25 to help others in their community, by sharing their own experiences as a powerful tool for transformational change. Fixers projects can be anything from a film or documentary to a website, an app or printed materials, and have tackled issues from mental health, drug addiction and homophobic abuse to gang culture, homelessness and recycling.
“They are ‘fixing’ the issues that fire them up, however they choose, benefiting themselves, their communities and people across the world. Young people become Fixers and create high-quality campaigns and resources in order to get their voices heard”, Mariam Ahmed, Fixers Young People’s Coordinator, said.
“Fixers share their resources with their peers, parents, teachers, employers, experts, and policy makers to ensure impact and reach on a national scale, creating a lasting legacy.”
“They engage people in the wider community in providing skills, expertise, time and other resources to make the project happen”, she said.
For some, tackling a particular issue can mean going out of their comfort zone, but it’s all for very good reason.
Becoming a Fixer
“Any young person can become a Fixer. All that we ask is that their campaign will benefit at least one other person. Therefore, the challenge for Fixers is that they must find a way of helping others in their community”, Mariam said.
“For some, this can mean going out of their comfort zone – campaigning, sharing experiences and talking about your life can at first make you feel uneasy. However, our research has proven that valuing young people’s voices is a powerful tool for change”, she said.
Fixers CEO Margo Horsley said the program is changing perceptions and understanding.
“Through the connections Fixers make, and the interaction they experience, they start to change the way they think not only about themselves and their identity, but also the way they think about other people and the way they are perceived and understood”, Margo said.
Fixers go from feeling isolated, alone and poorly understood, to feeling connected. They find others who understand their experience, and develop an awareness and understanding of themselves and others.
The wider impact is impressive, with the UK making real progress on civil rights for people with disabilities. Civil Rights is one of the key themes of this World Cerebral Palsy Day.
Tackling myths and discrimination
26 year old Michelle Middleton created a hilarious ‘Fixers’ video called the ‘Do’s and Don’ts of Disability’ to raise public awareness of the importance of treating people with disability just like everyone else.
Michelle said she aimed to help both people with and without a disability.
“I tackled discrimination and the common misconceptions that people have around people with disabilities. I believe my project primarily helps non disabled people by dispelling any preconceived ideas they may have about someone with a disability, which will hopefully help end any awkwardness and also any discrimination”, Michelle said.
“Growing up with cerebral palsy myself means I’ve faced discrimination numerous times. I also hope that the film will help other disabled people like myself feel like they can live their lives without discrimination or judgement from others”, she said.
Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) set up Fixers (originally called ITV Fixers) in 2008 with just two members of staff. It is now a national force to be reckoned and has produced over 2,100 campaigns.
With a £7.2 million grant from the Big Lottery Fund, Fixers extended into Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland in 2013.
“They have reached thousands of people with their work, on a national stage as well as in and around where they live. They choose the full array of social and health issues facing society today and set about making their mark. Fixers are always courageous and their ideas can be challenging and life-changing, not just for themselves”, Margo Horsley said.
For Mariam, Fixers has completely changed her life. Having been involved in Fixers as a young person campaigning on an issue she was passionate about, she counts herself privileged to be now working for a charity that initially allowed her to have a voice and cause change in an issue she felt passionate about.
“Now being able to help other young people campaign on issues they feel passionate about and raise awareness on is amazing. Empowering young people to have a voice is a feeling like no other – knowing you have been that one person that believed in a young person, that person who listened to a young person story and allowed them to help others around that issue is incredible”, Mariam said.
“It’s made me realise that anyone can change their path and everyone has a story and a campaign in them and all they need is the opportunity to be able to voice that and be able to inspire other young people. From one person having an idea or an experience the reaction from that can be endless and change can happen”, she said.