Lifelong Learning to Inspire Change

Miranda Lewis (MSc Global Politics, 2002) reflects on a career of collaborating with social and environmental changemakers, which began while studying at Birkbeck.

Miranda Lewis and Matthew Davis

Miranda’s passion has “always been about people trying to make change, whether that’s at a local level — such as someone having a great idea to improve their neighbourhood — or internationally.” She adds: “Being around changemakers is inspiring and motivating. If I can make their work better, that’s what gets me up in the morning.”

As part of m2, a consultancy she founded with Matthew Davis (a former guest lecturer at Birkbeck), Miranda works exclusively with not-for-profit organisations that are trying to create social and environmental change. Her aim is to give leaders of such organisations “the space, time, and tools to reflect, learn and think about their strategies.” m2 is a learning partner and evaluator to organisations such as Imperial War Museums, Gingerbread and London Youth, “helping them to think through their strategies and understand the difference they make.” Miranda is enjoying her current work with Climate Outreach, looking at how to assess the real-world impact their climate change communications have had. m2 also provides management training to many organisations, including human rights charity Reprieve, “helping them to think about their internal culture, communications and structures.”

Miranda also supports charities in her personal life. She became a Trustee of ADHD Embrace after her son was diagnosed with ADHD:

“I was googling support services when I came across [the charity]. I felt incredibly supported by them and what they did, so I wanted to give back. I have been able to contribute to their understanding of how the funding landscape operates based on my work in the voluntary sector.”

Miranda finds the role truly rewarding and notes that everyone on the board of ADHD Embrace has a child with ADHD which means “we all understand the challenges it can bring, and the importance of support.”

Miranda’s career of effecting social change began in the HIV & AIDS Advocacy Team at the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). It was there Miranda became aware of “a big gap in [her] knowledge, especially in the world of theory and thought around international development.” To address this, she enrolled on the Diploma in Developmental Studies at Birkbeck: “I hadn’t heard of Birkbeck before then, but [the course] made me want to learn more – especially about international politics.” Birkbeck’s MSc in Global Politics, a new course at the time, “felt like the perfect next step” for Miranda after completing her Diploma: “It was a rigorous course. It felt like a real academic endeavour.”

“At Birkbeck, we were there purely because we wanted to be there.”

Reflecting on the diversity of people she came across during her studies, Miranda recalls:

“At Birkbeck, we were there purely because we wanted to be there. A lot of different backgrounds were represented: strong trade unionists, owners of small businesses and many international students. There was a mixture of ages and no singular viewpoint. People felt safe to speak up. Not everyone understands what it’s like to study and work at the same time, so the support and solidarity we gave each other was really important too.”

Shortly after graduating from Birkbeck, Miranda found herself returning to the College to present research to Gender Studies students, on behalf of VSO, about efforts to combat HIV and AIDS. Before launching her career in consulting she also worked for The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a progressive think tank based in London, as an Associate Director and Head of Qualitative Research. Miranda credits Birkbeck with helping to give her “the confidence to take part in the world of policy and contribute to the key debates and policy change IPPR were involved in.”

Asked to describe Birkbeck in three words, Miranda responds: “Open, diverse and inspiring.”