Meet Team Forward Action: Berry Cochrane, our new CEO

Why did you want to be the new CEO of Forward Action? 

I have always admired Forward Action – not just the work it does, but its culture and approach too. In the past I’ve been a bit cynical about agencies, feeling that more often than not it’s style over substance. But when I discovered Forward Action I found it very refreshing. This was an agency driven by impact, working to deliver real world results with integrity.

I also knew that they’d done impressive work helping organisations achieve their goals on issues I care deeply about, with partners including Freedom from Torture, Dignity in Dying, Refuge, Care4Calais, Stonewall and Reprieve (to name but a few).

When the job came up it felt like an incredible opportunity to be a part of this story. I want to ensure we continue to deliver results for partners by evolving and adapting our offering. It’s an amazing chance to help uplift the whole sector, and help a wide range of organisations harness the power of digital mobilisation to tackle the most important issues of our time.

Can you tell us about your previous experience in digital mobilisation?

This question makes me feel old! I joined Amnesty UK’s digital team as a ‘web production coordinator’ 17 years ago, and went on to manage the digital team. That means I’ve been part of interrogating how we maximise the power of digital for campaigning since the sector really started asking that question.

From the early days of just having a website, to helping to create the first petitions and email programmes, and then later building a paid programme to drive email growth, it was amazing to be part of driving the power of digital and social media for change.

I later joined Greenpeace, where I developed the organisation’s first ever digital mobilisation strategy and partnered with the fundraising team to build integrated cross-organisational email and social strategies. Being free to think creatively about creating change and how it intersects with digital was really inspiring. We delivered great results, smashing our targets in the first year and growing the email list to over one million.

What’s been the biggest surprise since starting at Forward Action?

I had high expectations, but I’ve been completely blown away by how highly functioning it is! Every single employee owner is absolutely committed to delivering value to partners, and driven by the impact that they can help them achieve. It’s inspiring and highly motivating to be around – and the speed at which everyone works is frankly intimidating.

I’m excited about us implementing a Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion framework, building an actively anti-racist and anti-oppressive culture, and thinking about how that changes our work with partners and each other.

What do you wish more people knew about Forward Action and digital mobilisation?

Hmmm… that’s a tough one. I think people often know different things about Forward Action depending on the way in which they’ve interacted with us or heard about us.

So, I wish people knew the breadth of our work, and didn’t pigeonhole us as delivering a specific kind of service. Instead, I’d like to talk to them about their goals and explore how a digital mobilisation (and organising!) model could help achieve them.

I’d also like people to be aware that we’re an employee-owned four-day-week company. That’s something I’m really proud of, and the team has worked hard to make it a reality.

Across the sector, the thing I’d most like to change when it comes to digital mobilisation is the false separation between fundraising and campaigning. We need to recognise giving money as a powerful action and see it as an integral part of any campaign journey. It should be in the mix as a direct thing individuals can do to generate change. Equally, fundraising is most successful when it integrates with campaigning – offering value to organisations but also the people they are engaging.

Where are we most likely to find you outside of work?

I have a daughter who is three-and-a-half, so my honest answer is in a playground or in her bedroom having an intense imaginative play session. But I also spend a lot of time dragging her round art galleries, and she’s no stranger to a protest.

Daughter aside, I try to get to live music as much as possible and I’m an Arsenal fan, so I head to about four games a season.

What’s the one thing you would change in the world if you could? 

The system! Ha. Well, systemic inequality. I realise that’s a very big thing to want to change, but I’m a socialist, and to me all problems stem from a system that’s designed to oppress certain people (BIPOC, LGBTQI, the working class, women, disabled people) in order to raise others up.

I’m deeply moved by the number of people coming together to demand change – from huge numbers of people flooding the streets to demand black lives matter, to school students standing up for the climate, and nurses, rail workers, teachers and others exercising their rights to strike. And I really believe that by working together we will achieve a better world.