Our Communications Co-ordinator JAKE LLOYD tells Co-Leader Elizabeth about his passion for community and nature, his role with us, and how Cluster members have shaped some of his big life decisions.
Elizabeth: Tell us about your role in Arukah Network. Jake: I think of my job in two parts. Firstly, I’m like a storyteller for the network: I record what Clusters are doing and learning, and I turn them into blogs, articles, podcasts and videos. The idea is to share their voice, their wisdom and their knowledge with others in our network. It’s also to help others outside of our network learn about this collaborative, empowering and cost-effective way of doing ‘international development’. And it’s also simply to reflect back to Clusters what their hard work is achieving – it should be a source of encouragement. And then the second part of my job is in training. You and I co-designed a Communications and Advocacy Course that we piloted with the Freetown Cluster last September. That went well and is something we’ll start running for others soon. We’re also working on other forms of tools and training that help people all around the world to better serve their communities in different ways. We design these based on ideas, requests and skills from our network. Elizabeth: You were working in BBC radio news at the same time as working with Arukah Network, but you recently left that role didn’t you – why? Jake: I did. On one level I just wanted a new challenge – I'd been there for eight years and it was time for something new. But there are deeper reasons too. I was feeling a strong pull towards the natural world and to community: one provides everything we need to live, the other is a means by which we can address big challenges that the world faces. But both are being eroded: in nature, the climate is changing and wildlife levels are plummeting; and then in communities in many parts of the world, the quality of relationships has declined, and loneliness and suicide rates have soared. I think humanity needs an urgent re-focus on community and nature, and I want to play a part in making that shift happen. I didn't feel able to do that very well where I was: the news media tends to focus more on global centres of power than on communities, and on problems more than solutions. I think this can create powerlessness and pessimism amongst people – or does for me at least! Ultimately, I want to see people reconnect with nature and invest in their community, and I know that what I’m doing now - with Arukah Network and elsewhere - is better suited to doing that. Often it's in little interactions in our community or in nature where we get glimpses of what Jesus called the Kingdom of God. We need more of these. Elizabeth: So tell us what else you’re involved with, outside of Arukah Network – I know that some of these things have been influenced by Cluster members? Jake: They have yes! Since joining Arukah Network I’ve wanted to emulate the people I’ve got to know in the Clusters. People like Ostack in Tanzania. He’s using what he’s good at – in his case law and advocacy – to prosecute abusers and to help women learn their legal rights. And there’s been huge reductions in sexual violence as a result. Or the ‘Chabbs’ Cluster – a rural group of subsistence farmers and health workers in Zambia. They’ve invested so much time simply listening to people in their community, and by building these relationships, they’ve learned and shared ways to improve sanitation and maternal health. It’s like alchemy! In both these cases, it’s people learning to use the strengths and skills within themselves and within their community and applying them to the various challenges they see around them. And the results are astounding. I want to be more like them. So I’m trying to use my own strengths – in my case in media and communications – to try and support other organisations that are building community, and reconnecting people with nature, so they can better connect with others. And I’m trying to help unlock strengths in my own community too: I’m currently working with some talented people to set up a Repair Café – something which brings local people together to repair household items and share repair skills. The idea is to build community, to help people learn, and to reduce our impact on the environment by not throwing things out to landfill when they can be easily repaired.
Elizabeth: What’s the hardest thing about your job with Arukah Network? Jake: It’s trying to create a sense of ‘togetherness’ in our network. We’re all united by an understanding of the potential that lies within each of our communities, but we’re scattered all over the globe. We’re in different time zones, in different cultures, and we’re using different kinds and levels of technology. So I suppose the challenge is making the best use of available technology to help everyone in our network feel connected with everyone else, so that love and support and learning can flow through our network. It’s difficult, but I like a challenge.
Elizabeth: And finally, what are your hopes for the future of our network? Jake: One thing I’ve noticed all around Arukah Network is a kind of joy amongst people, even when they’re trying to deal with some big social, political and environmental issues. It reminds me of a song by the musician Tom Petty. It’s called ‘I Won’t Back Down’ and it’s about being defiant and focussed in life’s tough moments. But it’s not a heavy, intense song – it’s really joyful. At its best, that’s what you see in this network: our members are addressing really tough things in life with joy and focus and courage. The world needs more of that. So to answer your question, in the future I want us to spread this way of being deeper into each community, and wider around the world. In practical terms that means more Clusters, it means being more confident in telling others about what we do, and it means delivering our training programmes to more people. We don’t want people to retreat from the world’s problems, nor do we want them to face up to them and crumble. We want to come together and face up to things with this joy and defiance and courage. Elizabeth: Thanks Jake - It’s great to have you in the team. We appreciate you! For more news, interviews and profiles, sign up to receive our monthly newsletter. And if you're a Cluster member and would like to be featured in a profile, email us!