Agents of Change participants share their experiences of being part of a network for women who have an active interest in driving social change.
Established in 2018, Agents of Change was developed by Imperial and local partners to support women in White City achieve their ambitions. The programme is supported by a consortium of local institutions: Hammersmith United Charities, Hammersmith and Fulham Council and The Lyric, all of who provide support infrastructure such as access to mentors, inspirational guest speakers, community and business leaders and industry experts – as well as providing funding and venue space.
The programme is designed to address specific barriers that may prevent local women from increasing and sustaining their impact, equipping them to strengthen and empower both themselves and their local communities. Agents of Change is one of a number of programmes that form part of the College’s commitment to working in partnership with our local communities to make an enduring and positive impact, as detailed in the College’s Strategy for Societal Engagement.
In addition to the Network, members are eligible to apply to a 6-month free Community Leadership Programme. The programme covers different aspects of leadership, project management and professional development. The training sessions also cover topics such networking, communication, influencing, fundraising and evaluation in order to help boost the impact of local change initiatives.
Participants in the programme are given access to a large support system of women who can help develop their community initiative through the programme partners, in addition to being matched with a mentor.
One of the Agents from the last cohort is Saskieja Belmont. She works at Family Assist in the local authority, where she helps vulnerable young people on their education and learning journeys. After attending a networking evening at The Invention Rooms at the White City Campus, Saskieja was inspired by experiences from previous agents and signed up for the Agents of Change programme.
Speaking of the programme, Saskieja said: “I was fully supported throughout and was matched perfectly with my mentor. The Agents of Change programme taught me about project management and stakeholder engagement, as well as the Theory of Change. It’s a concept which allows you to work backwards from your end goal, and it’s one that I apply to so many aspects of my current role and volunteering roles.”
Saskieja said about her mentor: “If I had any issues she would help me with them, even if they weren’t related to my work project. She was really there for me and really inspired me – and we are still in contact, even after the programme finished.”
“The programme gave me the confidence and empowerment I needed to take new ideas forward in my line of work, as well as explore how I can use my experience outside of my formal role.” Saskieja Belmont
Through the networks she developed through Agents of Change, Saskieja worked in partnership with the White City Community Team to create and project manage the delivery of 250 science backpacks during lockdown to the most vulnerable children in White City. The backpacks contained fascinating science-inspired activities that can be easily done from home, with all equipment provided.
Finding your leadership style
Hala Abusin is a Community Pharmacist in Hammersmith and Fulham and signed up to the Agents of Change programme as she wanted to understand unique leadership styles and explore how she could influence and bring other people along towards her vision for change.
Pre-pandemic, Hala developed a business initiative called Plat Pharma which is aimed towards community pharmacists. She has designed and launched a platform to help community pharmacists engage better with their patients. This included video consultations with patients and allowing patients the opportunity to book appointments with their local pharmacists. It also allows pharmacists to record outcomes and interactions with all patients.
Hala said: “I particularly liked that there was so much synergy within the group and that you could support other agents with what they’re doing. I was able to partner with another agent for work”.
Hala is now working with the College on designing and conducting a survey on the public’s perception, knowledge and attitude towards secure video consultations with community pharmacies.
Supporting grassroots activity
Melanie Lee, Organisational Development Consultant at Imperial, has been working with the White City Community Team since 2018 on the programme. She helped design the leadership training, delivers and also volunteers as a mentor.
Melanie’s experience was beyond what she imagined. She felt honoured to be part of such a programme where she is able to build connections and share her knowledge experience.
Speaking of her experience, Melanie said: “It was so powerful being in that space and there was so much trust in the room. Grassroots activity is what supports society and where it all begins. Change comes from the grassroots. If there was anything I could do to help them and to support them through their thinking and their processes, then that’s what I did.”
Melanie received the College’s ‘Collaboration and Communication Award for Culture and Community’ last year for her work on Agents of Change. It is for individuals and teams who embody our spirit of community and collegiality. This involves teams and individuals working, planning, and delivering together towards the College’s shared vision through effective networking, collaboration and communication.
Igniting a passion
Stephanie Williams was also one of the 17 women to join the programme. Stephanie is a White City Resident and Councillor at Women’s Aid, a charity that shapes and coordinates responses to domestic abuse and helps survivors of domestic abuse.
Stephanie’s initially joined the programme to explore her idea of creating a group specifically for young girls in White City and Shepherd’s Bush on the subject of domestic violence. It wasn’t until she was teamed up with her mentor, Alison Perry, Lead Midwife/ Manager Women’s Health Research Centre at Imperial College London, that she realised she wanted to expand the idea and make it a group that encompasses broader topics and issues women face.
“I left the sessions with a great feeling of empowerment and drive every time.” Stephanie Williams
Stephanie said: “This ignited a passion within me and I realised I wanted to be a facilitator for women’s issues – issues across the spectrum such as health, domestic violence, fertility, etc.”
“I learned so much from just listening to other women on the programme and their journeys and experiences. Each month was a different training theme, but we unpacked our life experience within these topics.
You can read about all the participants on the 2019/2020 cohort here.
Join our network and support those supporting their communities
The Community Engagement Team are looking for volunteers to mentor participants and to run training for the next cohort starting in summer 2021, as well as colleagues interested in joining the network to connect with local women, share expertise and support local grassroots initiatives.
Visit the Agents of Change website