As a young girl, my blood got boiling when I encountered unequal treatment – so much that I ran one of my first campaigns to get my parents to give my twin brother and sister equal amounts of housework. My drive stems from being able to feel and touch structural discrimination. And wanting to change it.
I am starting up an activist hub for glocal activism in the U.S. for the international NGO ActionAid.
What waves do you make, Ann-Sofie?
I connect people and I make ideas come to life. I am an "ideas midwife". I link people who work on local issues to improve their ideas, create synergies, scale their work to change the root causes of the issues they are engaged in.
What does sense of connectedness mean to you?
Knowing why I am doing the work I am – being connected to the vision, connected to the compass in my stomach telling me it is right, connected to the people around the world who are involved.
Campaigning can be a very high risk job, what do you think people should equip themselves with when looking at campaigning as a potential full time career?
You should consider what kind of activist you want to be – you can work inside power structures, outside of them, you can employ high-risk strategies, or low-risk ones. The most important is to know why you are doing the work, and then you evaluate what tactics you are comfortable with. To me the most important is constantly to ask yourself what value you are adding, and be conscious of how you are taking up space and enabling others to join or lead the struggle.
How can we create a social business with campaigning at its core?
First, campaigning is about finding the innovative alliances – find the links between the most impacted and those with resources, both financial and influence, who are willing to contribute.
Another opportunity is to create value as a part of the fight to create change – cooperations do this really well when they both act out an alternative solution to our world set-up, but also earn an income through this that they use to advocate, create policy changes, and spread their business model.
Diversifying where campaigning is an integral part of acting out the solutions is important – it also gives you more legitimacy: you act your ideals, and know what you are talking about.
What is the economic impact of giving a voice to the "village"?
The main impact of this is that we take back the power of the local – the political power, the financial power. The food movement is a great example. We want food that is good for us, where we can participate in the story behind. That tendency is creating economic and political power locally. When many of these movements then join forces across countries and regions, you have a whole Food Movement, ready to pop and challenge the fast food culture and the mindless consumption of globally transported bad food.
What's controversial about what you are doing?
Well, I think it is always controversial to focus on changing power structures. Giving a voice to the people who are the most impacted, but the least powerful, will always be seen as controversial – but that does not make it less right.
What is your future self asking you right now and how would you answer her?
I am probably asking my younger version why oh why I insist on doing 20 projects at the same time – but the older me knows that focusing too much on one thing would kill the creativity, and I live from a place of chaotic inspiration between many projects.
Could you please tell us about women who have a social/environmental impact?
Eve Ensler - for taking back the erotic to be a source of power for women with The Vagina Monologues. For creating a movement to end violence against women with V-day.
V-day is a social movement, and a social enterprise when they raise money through the Vagina Monologues and create powerful change in the perception of girls worldwide. Arundhati Roy – for taking the side of the most impacted and using her credibility to change the situation for the most marginalised.
Audre Lorde (1934-1992) – for creating a strong analysis of the intersection between women, sexuality and race, and for being brave enough to stand up and be who she was in a time when most women like her were persecuted.
Thanks a lot Ann-Sofie!
Connect with Ann-Sofie on Twitter: @AnnSofieJespers
Read about Ann-Sofie Jesperson's work:
West Africa: Activista: The Gambia Dreaming High
The organisation: Activista
2.00: What is this engagement?
3.48-4.55: what empowerment means - start up your own thing.