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New Radicals: Celebrating a new generation of campaigners and activists

Alongside The Observer, we’re today presenting our second list of the UK’s New Radicals. The first list showcased an amazing set of creative individuals and this year we’re delighted to have had an even better response with over 1,000 nominations from across the UK covering an extraordinary range of activities.

As in the earlier list, there are some notable clusters, perhaps reflecting where radical innovators’ energies are particularly focused at the moment. One dominant theme is ageing, not surprisingly given the scale of the challenges we face in adapting to an ageing society with a rising incidence of conditions such as dementia, and lots of great initiatives like Oomph! which runs exercise classes for older people living in care homes, helping them have fun while staying healthy.

Data-driven

Another prominent theme this year is digital technology. Among our 2014 New Radicals is Leeds Data Mill, a beacon of what local government can do to support people-powered data and a great example of a project working hard to ensure data serves us rather than being used to manipulate our lives. We’ve also seen an explosion of organisations spreading digital making skills right across the country, primarily involving young people: Code Club and CoderDojo are two fantastic examples.

Once again we’ve seen impressive demonstrations of technological innovation, and this year we have selected GravityLight, a simple, cheap, but very smart technology which generates light from gravity, providing an alternative to the kerosene lamps used so prominently across the developing world.

While many on our new list are digital or technological, we’ve also highlighted those working hard to promote the benefits of face-to-face interaction. Sunday Assembly is a good example, reinventing the venerable tradition of gathering in church for a weekly sermon but adapting it for a more secular age.

Yet another group are spreading the skills needed to change the world. Campaign Bootcamp is tooling up passionate people with the skills to achieve social change and reshape the world – a good alternative to grumbling from the side-lines.

Democratisation of knowledge

A final project, which particularly caught my eye, is WikiHouse, which is adapting the principles of sites like Wikipedia to the job of designing and building houses. By providing simple, step by step guidance and examples they’re turning a process that can seem mysterious into one that’s potentially open to anyone.

In a way, perhaps that’s the common story of radicalism in 2014. Much of it involves democratisation – making knowledge, skills and power, and seemingly complex processes like programming computers or building houses, more accessible and open than ever before.

That makes this list even more of an antidote to the other lists which can be found peppered around the media – lists of the rich, powerful and famous.

Many of these projects and organisations are still small and fragile, surviving on a wing and a prayer. But I’m glad to say that we’ve watched the people and projects on our 2012 list thrive and go on to achieve great things. Our hope is that this 50 will be equally successful and inspiring. Pursuing radical change is difficult, risky and uncertain. But we all benefit from the results. That’s why we aim to provide some ongoing support. But it’s also why we need to celebrate too. 

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New Radicals

Author

Geoff Mulgan

Geoff Mulgan

Geoff Mulgan

Chief Executive Officer

Geoff Mulgan has been Chief Executive of Nesta since 2011. Nesta is the UK's innovation foundation and runs a wide range of activities in investment, practical innovation and research.

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