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In Digital Discussion with: Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis is a champion of social change, a shining example of how to improve the world they live in, and they can help you be one too...

Owen Lewis joined the TEDxBrayfordPool stage in November 2018, at our Youth event, talking about how to make social change. Owen is personally someone I admire very much. They are one of Lincolnshire’s 30 Under 30 Rising Stars of 2019 through their work as Director of Univentus, DAIT (Diversity and Inclusion Transformations) and due to their experiences of volunteering globally. They also are an experienced PR freelancer: having worked with TEDxBrayfordPool, Team Academy Amsterdam, Involve@Lincoln, 3 Degrees of Innovation and many more. They have also recently been announced as a delegate for Change the World's global Digital Model United Nations conference and have been accepted onto the "United Nations and Global Challenges" summer programme at the Graduate Geneva Institute.

I would usually sit and chat with them over Zoom but this, as always, is a digital discussion. I hear you now: “Zoom is digital though!” True, but for the continuity of this blog series, it isn’t. They sent their answers via Google Doc.

So, imagine we’re on our weekly Zoom chat, come on, join us. Their face pops up on my screen and I smile and wave.

“Hello Owen, who are you and what is your story?”

“I’ve moved around the country a lot, originally from Kent, and spent most of my life in women's refuges and as a young carer. My experiences really helped give me a perspective of different ways of life and how different experiences can help connect us. Since then I've gone on to do work in Uganda and South Sudan, with frontline environmental defenders and deliver diversity and inclusion workshops.”

“What first inspired you to give a TEDx Talk?”

“When I first met the TEDxBrayfordPool team it was actually about the organisation where I worked sponsoring the upcoming event. I started to look into TEDx and fell in love with the philosophy and belief behind it, the importance of an idea and sharing it. My biggest inspiration was wanting to use my previous experiences as a tool and platform to share a message I believed was worth sharing.”

“I think that’s the main reason for us taking the first step onto the TEDxBrayfordPool stage, to share a message that simply needs to be shared. Anyway, out of all the work you do, what excites you the most?”

“I always get excited about the dialogue sessions I hold in workshops - every time there are new ideas, challenges and conversations. I've never held a dialogue session that's been the same as one before it but I do always enjoy playing the ball games!”

“What do you think your next big project will be?”

“I wish I knew! The big thing for me at the moment is looking to move my work online but I'm one of the young people taking part in the global Model United Nations programme and a summer programme run by the Geneva Institute about global development so I just plan to see where that all takes me.”

It’s no mystery that I am in awe of the opportunities Owen has created for themselves, as a budding global development nerd myself. As if this is real, I gawk digitally and they smile humbly back.

“That’s honestly so awesome! However I want to know how you think, with your experience in Diversity and Inclusion, we can make our communities at home in Lincolnshire more tolerant?”

“I think Lincolnshire's an interesting area as there's a large sense of pride in the community that people want to cling on to - however those communities haven't always been inclusive. So for a lot of people it's weird and new territory. The first place is to start talking more - studies have shown that our barriers towards different cultural identities diminish the more we are exposed to them - by more conversations happening the easier it will be to create inclusive communities.”

I nod in agreement, swiftly and move on.

“Okay quick fire! Three words to sum up the TEDx experience?”

“Ecstatic. Empowered. Tired.”

“Favourite TEDx Talk?”

“I have two and they are both from the TEDxBrayfordPool family. Thomas Dunning’s talk (‘The fight for survival in a war against yourself’) in 2018 was an incredibly insightful talk on their experience and left me wanting to do more. Secondly, ‘Wounded healers, laughing warriors: Why laughter really is the best medicine’ by Denise Tooley-Okonkwo and Deb Hodson - TEDxBrayfordPool 2019 - I have never watched such wonderful and amazing people as these two!”

“Favourite book?”

“‘Be More Pirate’ - Sam Conniff. Such an incredible book that completely changed my mindset and how I approached projects I’m working on.”

“Finally, on a more topical note, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd it’s clear that we have to educate ourselves on Black history, activism and institutionalised racism. What have been some of your favourite pieces of media, literature or art that has helped you learn more?”

“There's so much discussion on Twitter happening at the moment - from loads of different views - that it's been great to take time and just listen and understand what's going on. I recently read Law, Phillip & Turney's ‘Institutional Racism in Higher Education’, which although written in 2004 provides an insightful review into the HE sector and the work that still has to be done”

“Thank you Owen!”

They may as well have left the call because I didn’t hear a squeak from them, because, you guessed it, this is a digital interview.

You can watch Owen’s talk here.


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