PROFILE: Ben Jackson, Shelter - Campaigner Jackson claims Shelter PR role - Merger with Crisis will be a major issue for globally-minded Ben Jackson

Given the international nature of the previous jobs on his CV, Ben

Jackson may seem an unusual choice to head PR at UK homelessness charity

Shelter. Before his appointment last month, he spent the past 14 years

making his name as one of the country's most successful campaigners on

international development.

But he is quick to point out he is far from a one-issue campaigner: 'I

have an international outlook but I'm not exclusively concerned with

that aspect of campaigning. Shelter is a focused organisation - that's

what appeals to me.'

Nevertheless his global view will undoubtedly have some impact on the

way the charity communicates its message. He believes Britain's

policy-makers need to look more at other countries, particularly in

Europe, for developing areas of public policy in housing.

Jackson's PR career began at the World Development Movement. He says he

was lucky to have landed that job as a newly graduated Oxford geography

student: 'I don't think someone in my position at the time could get a

job like that now. But PR was in its infancy then.'

But it must have been obvious to those at WDM that they were taking on a

man committed to the cause. He had already spent a gap year teaching in

Uganda and a period of time in Sudan researching the conditions of

Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees living in cities.

He eventually became head of campaigns at WDM, a management position

that he says was 'very hands-on', involving the practical side of public

affairs, PR and design. During this time he led campaigns to move UK

export credits for developing countries from promoting arms to more

development-oriented foods and the legal campaign against the misuse of

British aid on Malaysia's Pergau Dam.

While at WDM Jackson took leave to serve as a parliamentary researcher

and election aide to Labour MP Ann Clwyd, then shadow minister for

international development. This introduced him to PR for a personality

rather than for a cause.

Considering he is a member of Clwyd's party, would he become a

politician? He doesn't rule it out, but his description of politics

being a 'murky world' and involving 'greasy poles' in career progression

suggests this is not an option in the foreseeable future.

In 1995 Jackson's interest in international development became more

specific when he was selected as director of Action for Southern Africa,

the successor organisation to the anti-apartheid movement.

Leading a staff of four, his role included overseeing PR and policy

work. Campaigns at that time included attempting to gain better trade

terms for South Africa from the EU and highlighting the plight of South

African workers affected by asbestos poisoning.

'This was a new organisation with a new cause. The anti-apartheid

movement had a huge presence, we needed to carry on that momentum to

help South Africa after apartheid,' he says.

He regularly visited South Africa and surrounding countries, such as

war-ravaged Angola. Indeed, getting out of the office is something that

Jackson feels is important.

'It's vital you don't lose sight of who you are working for. You can get

caught up in policy and the corridors of power. I want to carry on with

that in Shelter. If I'm going to campaign about something I need to

speak to the people it affects. I'm going to try and get out more and

visit those working on a range of projects,' he says.

Veteran anti-apartheid campaigner and now honorary president of ASA Lord

Hughes of Woodside was on the selection panel that chose Jackson: 'We

had a high-quality field but there was no real doubt that Ben was the

best man for the job. He has a good grasp of campaigning and already had

a good track record with WDM. I always found him a very personable man

to work with. He's a loss to our organisation.'

Glenys Kinnock (MEP) has known Jackson while he campaigned for both WDM

and ASA. She said: 'He is a man of integrity - that's the key word for

Ben. He's never pushy but uses gentle persuasion. I can only imagine him

ever working somewhere where he can make a difference.'

One achievement at Action for Southern Africa was to build the body's

first PR team and play a role in designing the structure of the

organisation. This is an experience he will find useful in order to

tackle what could be Shelter's biggest upheaval yet, its merger with

fellow homelessness group Crisis. Jackson confirms earlier reports that

plans to merge are underway: 'That's what we are working towards.'

But will he stay beyond this merger to lead PR for the new entity? He

says: 'I expect to be playing a key role when the decision is taken to

merge, and in projecting the messages of the new organisation.' A

diplomatic answer indeed from such a globally-minded campaigner.


1987: Campaigns officer, World Development Movement

1992: Head of campaigns, World Development Movement

1995: Director, Action for Southern Africa

2001: Ext'l affairs director, Shelter

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