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02 July 2013

Vikki Mclachlan - strategic operations, Micah Challenge

Vikki Mclachlan - strategic operations, Micah Challenge

Vikki has been involved with Micah Challenge since 2004 and an executive assistant to Joel Edwards for ten years. Micah Challenge seeks to call world leaders to account on the Millennium Development Goals made in 2000 to halve world poverty. She recently completed an MSc in Poverty Reduction and Development Management. She sings in the Olympic Games Maker choir and is a crochet obsessive.

How are you seeing Micah Challenge making a difference?
I love being able to support and encourage campaigners around the world who have few resources. Often Micah Challenge is one of many hats they wear. It can be difficult to evaluate impact, but globally we have definitely added weight to various campaigns and legislation changes. We have helped keep the MDGs high on the international agenda. It is most exciting that Christians are becoming increasingly aware of their role as advocates for the poor.

What is your strangest cultural experience while travelling?
I was in the middle of nowhere in southern Zambia. Our guides were explaining why the sanitation improvements (toilet building) needed local mediation to discourage the practice of relieving oneself in the bush. Apparently the women like to check they are feeding their men well, and the men were appalled by the thought of sitting in the same place their mother-in-law would 'go'. You just can't underestimate local knowledge!

What exactly do you spend your time doing?
Head of Operations sounds less grand when you realise there are four staff members. As a team we're small and flexible, and non-specialist, which in reality means we all do a bit of everything. I help form strategy and keep us on track, look after finance/HR and do some creative Videoscribing. We all change roles slightly when in campaign mode, so currently I'm liaising with new global partners in our EXPOSED anti-corruption campaign.

So, the EXPOSED campaign highlights global corruption. How can we see something on the other side of the world as our problem?
Corruption is everywhere. We sleep easier thinking we're not implicated. But - particularly as consumers - we unwittingly consent to all sorts of unethical practices. Most forms of corruption have a direct link to our average day. Rape as a weapon of war over coltan (a key component of mobile phones) in the DRC; infringement of garment workers rights in Bangladesh in order to provide dirt cheap clothes; and tax avoidance in the UK to allow us to google away and enjoy a coffee. As always, the poorest are worst hit by corruption, and Jesus was pretty clear that we should care for them. There are plenty of little changes we can make.

What do you do to unwind?
Honestly, crochet!  Despite the recent woolly-hobby resurgence, I always feel the need to laugh after saying that, it still feels old-fashioned. But that's why I like it – everyone used to have a craft. Making something with your hands is incredibly satisfying. Seriously, a ball of wool and a hook and you can make clothes – magic.

Doesn't it ever just seem like the problems are on too grand a scale for the efforts to count?
Yes absolutely but that is why it is exciting. It's all too easy to be overwhelmed by the problems and cynical about our efforts. We can't do it on our own.  It takes a long-term frustrating slog at partnership and reliance on God.  It's crazy, unlikely but totally possible – a bit like our faith. We can understand God's heart for the poor, believe that tackling these issues is part of His story during our lifetime, and that we have a role to play.   

What is the most important lesson you've learned so far?
Life is about balance and God enjoys balance. I work for an anti-poverty outfit but I'm not nervous about money.  I enjoy fashion but often support fair trade or organic brands. I love my Apple products but have written to ask them to improve their workers' rights. We shouldn't be overwhelmed by issues, but we shouldn't be ignorant.

Are more people getting the message? What happens after 2015?
Social media and online advocacy have definitely increased awareness. The MDGs 'finish' in 2015, but new global targets are currently being designed by world leaders, NGOs and civil society. There's a definite danger of long-term campaign-fatigue but the Church just needs to continue to speak up for the rights of the poor.  High profile awareness campaigns could give way to transformative business practices and widespread lifestyle change - I'd love that.

Micah Challenge and the EXPOSED campaign