Pride month - Learning more about akt

Tereza Litsa
Digital Engagement Manager
14 Jun 2021

It's Pride Month 🏳️‍🌈 and we're celebrating at #TeamLightful by talking to wonderful people and organisations who work with Pride throughout the year.

We've talked to Matt Horwood, Director of Communications and Campaigns at akt, to find out more about his work and the organisation he's part of.

Enjoy!

Hey Matt, I'd love to hear more about your role at akt

I work as Communications and Campaigns Director for akt, overseeing our campaigns, digital and social content, design and production, public affairs, media relations and research. I’m also responsible for the direction of our brand, how we utilise communications to reach more supporters and young people and any potential crises we might face as an organisation.

For those who don’t know, can you please tell us what akt is about?

akt is the national LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity, providing safe homes and better futures to 16-25-year-olds who are facing homelessness or living in a hostile environment.

We provide emergency housing support, as well as emergency support packs, as well as tenancy starter packs, accommodation with trained akt hosts, a place to stay in our Purple Door safe house and access to life skills, training and events.

The charity was founded in Manchester in 1989 by straight ally and former foster carer Cath Hall, who is still one of our biggest champions today. We have offices in Bristol, London, Manchester and Newcastle, but operate and support on a national level.

What it’s like being the Director of Communications and Campaigns at akt? How do you balance different tasks during the week?

No week is ever the same! One week we’re working with trade press to launch a piece of research into LGBTQ+ youth homelessness, or delivering media-training to staff and young people, the next we’re working with Victoria Beckham’s marketing team to help raise funds and awareness to support our work.

It’s a role that definitely requires me to be well-organised and agile, ready to move things at the last minute and juggle, but it’s also so varied and has allowed me to meet and work with some incredible people from within and outside of our community.

How is akt reacting to negative comments (on social or any digital channels)? Do you have a comms policy in place?

Our rule of thumb is to not engage with comments or messages that are abusive. We don’t tend to receive many of these, thankfully, however when it does happen it’s important to check in on the wellbeing of staff.

Unless a negative comment included a legitimate question or raised any cause for concern, we would not action or take it further.

Which tools helped you over the past year to be more efficient while working remotely?

The Communications team is dispersed across both London and Manchester, so in some ways we felt a lot more unified while all working remotely during the pandemic.

We are avid Facebook Workplace Chat users, and have different chats set up between us in the team for different topics and projects. We would ensure a weekly check-in, either via audio, video or written updates, to update on any upcoming work.

Overall, I’ve been so proud to watch the team flourish during lockdown and am confident that blended or remote working can actually bring out the best in us all.

However, planning, writing, editing and launching a report while not in the same room was quite difficult – especially when doing data analysis!

How are you celebrating Pride month at akt?

In some senses, it’s Pride all year-long at akt, as we strive to create spaces (online or in-person) where LGBTQ+ young people feel safe, supported and able to be themselves. Our Youth Engagement team do an incredible job of this, with support from our Digital Officer to deliver content.

However, in the run-up to Pride month, we hosted our own akt ‘Virtual Pride’, a series of on-demand content for our young people. This included a workshop on housing rights, an explainer video on trans law with Mermaids, and asexuality awareness content with Yasmin Benoit.

This year we’ll be attending a number of Prides either virtually or – we hope – in person. These include UK Black Pride (virtual), Northern Pride (virtual), Bristol Pride (in-person tbc) and Manchester Pride (in-person tbc).

What does Pride month mean to you personally?

While we all have a different innate sense of what Pride is, I think we need to still think of it as a protest, and something that must be for all of us and not just some of us.

Pride to me on a personal level is about feeling able to be myself. It’s being surrounded by queer friends and colleagues whose resilience, love and happiness make the world a better place.

But as someone who exists in the community with immense comparative privilege, it’s difficult to truly feel proud in a world where trans people, LGBTQ+ Black and people of colour and queer migrants among others continue to face huge levels of discrimination, exclusion and abuse. How can we really celebrate Pride as a community while that is still going on?

How can we support akt throughout the year?

If you’re able to, please donate to support our vital work! During the first lockdown, we saw an increase of 118 per cent of new young people needing our support. We’ve had to employ new caseworkers to meet this demand and, even as we look to come out of lockdown, the numbers continue to rise.

With your help, akt can work to make sure no young person has to choose between a safe home and being who they are.

Alternatively, please follow us on social media @aktcharity and share our content to raise awareness of the issues our young people come up against! Our latest report released in April is also well worth a read to help understand this context better and can be downloaded at www.akt.org.uk/report.

Thanks so much for your time, Matt!

Keep an eye on our blog and social media channels for more updates during Pride Month!

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