Sarah Reader (BA Politics & International Studies 2005-09) campaigns and supports local groups and activists for the World Development Movement, an anti-poverty campaigning organisation that tackles the root causes of poverty. Since being part of People and Planet at Warwick, Sarah has been involved in several other campaign groups including Climate Camp and UK Uncut. In June Sarah will be travelling to the Rio+20 Earth Summit in Brazil to track the inter-governmental talks on the future of sustainable development, and to network with campaigners and people from social movements around the world.
When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was young I always wanted to be an actress. But when I was about 14 my brother went to South America to volunteer as an engineer on community water and cooking infrastructure projects and I decided I wanted to “do something to help people too”.
What was the best careers advice you were given?
“It’s the extracurricular stuff that counts”. I was once told that it wouldn’t be enough to simply get a degree, and that it’s all the other stuff that comes with university that actually makes you stand out, like being involved with sports and societies. I don’t think I’d have the job I have if I hadn’t been involved with People and Planet and the Students' Union at Warwick.
Describe yourself in three words
Positive, enthusiastic and energetic.
What do you do in your job exactly?
Hard to summarise in one sentence and it changes every day! The World Development Movement challenges UK government policies that “keep people poor”. It tackles the root causes of poverty by publishing reports and research, lobbying, and raising awareness through events and local group campaigning.
I help support our network of over 50 local groups and activists, for example by organising events, writing materials like a guide to using the web for campaigns, and running workshops. I also work on our climate justice campaign researching the activities of international institutions such as the World Bank and the UN and lobbying MPs and government ministers.
We often organise demonstrations and publicity stunts, and so dressing up in strange costumes is also part of my job. In April, I had my picture in the papers dressed as a blue eagle outside the Barclays Bank AGM.
Going to Rio is going to be really exciting too.
What are the most challenging parts of your job?
The hardest thing with campaigning is learning how to stop, and not to put all your energy (inside and outside of work) into it. With campaigning there’s always more to be done and not enough people or time to do it in. It can be quite hard to stay positive when the world’s problems are so big, and to recognise the successes you do achieve. However it’s really inspiring work, and you get to meet amazing people from around the world. Recently the World Development Movement hosted a visit from Delwek Matheus from the amazing Brazilian landless workers movement, and since I speak Portuguese I translated for him at the public talks he gave, which was really interesting.
What have you done that you are most proud of?
In my final year at Warwick, along with a fellow student, I got funding from the Lord Rootes Memorial Fund to do a research project in Mexico. Not only was it an amazing experience and really inspiring to learn more about the Zapatista social movement, but our report on the project won a prize for being of “outstanding calibre” (their words, not mine).
More recently I’ve been very involved with anti-arms trade campaigning, helping to launch Stop the Arms Fair and a new campaign to get the National Gallery stop receiving arms company sponsorship: Disarm the Gallery.
It has also been great being part of the World Development Movement’s climate campaign. In December, the then climate and energy secretary Chris Huhne announced that for the first time, the UK would contribute £10 million to the UN climate adaptation fund, and that most of the climate money the UK contributes through the World Bank will be in the form of grants, not loans. These were key demands of our campaign, and I think we made a real difference. I had a long discussion with Chris Huhne outside his office in last autumn, so who knows, maybe I helped change his mind!
What drives you?
A sense of injustice about the world, and the impact of the current political and economic structure (especially how the economic crisis is hitting Portugal where I grew up).
Where do you hope to be in 10 years’ time?
Cycling, campaigning, eating and drinking in a Spanish or French speaking country…
What are your favourite memories of your university years at Warwick?
- Bouncing on a bouncy castle in the Piazza during ‘Go Green Week’
- Playing for the Warwick basketball team
- Late night chats in our kitchen in Tocil
- Student cinema! It just doesn’t get that cheap anywhere else!
Do you have any advice for new graduates?
Make the most of student societies and sports – and all the time you have if you’re doing a social sciences degree! University is a great place to try new things.
Anything else you would like to add?
If any of the campaigns or groups I’ve mentioned spark your interest you might like to check out:
Campaigning’s great and it’s fun!
Sarah Reader: the facts
|Lives:||Hackney, London (but home is Porto in Portugal)|
|Graduated from Warwick in 2009 with a degree in Politics and International Studies (with an Erasmus year in Madrid, Spain).|
|Career:||Since 2010 I’ve worked in the networks and campaigns teams at the World Development Movement. Before that I promoted recycling locally with Waste Watch, and was the universities network coordinator for Campaign Against Arms Trade.|