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Who is Michael? He’s the new CEO of Groundswell !!!


Reported by Mark

Published on Thursday, April 4th, 2024

Volunteering and Employment
Blogs

Who is Michael? He’s the new CEO of Groundswell !!!


Written by Mark

Published on Thursday, April 4th, 2024

Volunteering and Employment

In the 90s, Groundswell was founded as a humanitarian project to support homeless people’s health. It was a revolutionary project that the founders may have thought would “just” be a little community thing to help people like me (vulnerable, health issues, and could do with a heck of a lot of advocacy in all sorts of ways).

What was Michael doing in the 90s? Well, to be sure, he didn’t have his bottom planted at his sofa watching Jerry Springer.

About that time, Michael was a “hands in the air, like you just don’t care” kind of guy as he was DJ-ing for the masses at Mass, in Brixton. At the very place which would soon be Groundswell’s offices for a few years at St Matthew’s Church. The famous club is opposite what was once the Fridge and now the Electric Brixton music venue.

So, the question still hangs in the air. Who is Michael? He is now the CEO of Groundswell, but who was he before he met Groundswell’s Board and was taken on board? Is he a revolutionary or a visionary? Both, really.

He told us that he first became concerned about homelessness while his mum worked (and they sometimes lived) in London Bridge. That was when he was about 9 or 10, in the 1980s. When rough sleeping was high in London Bridge and the Waterloo Cardboard City was at its peak. How his fellow human beings lived in such conditions gave him the impression that there really was something wrong in the world.

While he lived with his family in South London, this boy south of the river did good. He realised that there was a lot of unjust issues around, there was divide between the wealthy and the not so wealthy. Graduating from the London School of Economics, the experience solidified his experience that some people really did grow up with crazy privilege, and others with nothing. That made him uneasy really.

The good part though, is how he managed to get the grades to pass his BA (Hons) and thrive in the charity sector.

While he was at school, he was a bit of an activist, at school and attending anti-racist and war protests. Perhaps all these things didn’t quite materialise, but upon graduation, he started doing some incredible things.

He did amazing stuff with various big hitter homeless charities like Shelter and of course, acting CEO of Cardboard Citizens. What really stuck me the most, was his involvement with a community group in Sierra Leone in his mid-20s.

(Note: For those who want to be in the know, Sierra Leone has an amazing chocolate industry.)

His work there set up and developed a music charity for the youths, WAYOut Arts. Amazing, you may be thinking, but in this instance, it really was. He managed to seriously increase the confidence of many young people through the medium of music, and to have their voices heard by more people.

On reflection, there seems to be a theme of music and creativity in Michael’s life.

Somehow, this boiled down to his work as CEO of the Union Chapel in Islington pre, during and post pandemic and this might have been when things started to tie together.

As you may know, for many years, the Union Chapel not only has been an international music venue for incredible artists, but more importantly, has been a player in supporting homeless communities in north London, in particular Islington. They have a great service supporting some of London’s most vulnerable demographics, and also hosted a number of national events and programmes around homelessness and social justice.

Music, creativity and homelessness seemed to go hand in hand in Michael’s life with his most recent work at the Union Chapel.

Fortunately for us, he is now spinning his “tunes” with Groundswell!

As the new CEO of Groundswell, Michael has inherited an incredible project that has been developed over decades to be the national success it is now.

Up until we get to his ten-year tenure with Groundswell, his immediate issues seem to be directly associated with strategy. In my own experience, strategy seems to be the new word on the charity sector street.

What is his strategy?

The underpinned aspects of Groundswell seem to be ever present. Health, advocacy, participation, contribution, Homeless Health Peer Advocacy (HPPA) are the foundations of Groundswell at this point and seem to be the unique selling point of what our wonderful project is all about.

But what is next on the strategic side of this?

Co production! His vision is clear. To have every level of the Groundswell community to participate in what we see Groundswell becoming, going forward. Where is he taking us? It seems on a very democratic path with input from all angles and to weave these ideas into one monumental bit of work which will be transformational in the charity sector.

To make his mark with projects like co production, the theory of change, social mobility and whatever else he has planned up his sleeve.

I had the gall to ask him what he sees in 10 years and his answer inspired many thoughts.

Of all the things we discussed, one thing was the issue of climate change. I asked him how that will affect the homeless and he pointed out of course, there is the classic SWEP situation (Severe Weather Emergency Protocol). As in the extreme cold while sleeping rough and the risks associated with that, there is now the additional stresses of increasingly overheating on the streets too. And that as a country, it is possible we will be receiving lots of climate/environmental refugees. I guess that should definitely be on the UN’s strategy of the definition of what a refugee is, looking at the risk of their country slipping into the sea in line with risks to an individual’s own safety. And then.

Ironically enough, that is barely the tip of the (melting) iceberg.

Our Michael is certainly a good egg I think.

He even said those three magic words: “I love Groundswell”.

What more is there to say, except, let’s do this again in a year’s time and see what amazing visions he and the rest of us have implemented?

Thank you so much Michael for taking your valuable time to speak with Caoimhe and me and for us to get to know you!

Written by Mark


Hi, my name is Mark. I’m an ethical entrepreneur and have lived experience from all sorts. Recovery is not linear, although I aim to make it a bit more flat for all of us. Thank you.

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2 thoughts on “Who is Michael? He’s the new CEO of Groundswell !!!

  1. Loved this Mark! What a great insight into Michael’s past. I look forward to the update in 1 year’s time!

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