We were delighted to see that The Diana Award’s Head of Partnerships and Development, Alex Holmes, made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list this week for Europe’s Social Entrepreneurs. The Forbes list is describes as ‘an annual encyclopaedia of ‘the brightest entrepreneurs, innovators and game-changers under the age of 30 who are transforming business as usual and changing the world’. We sat down with Alex to quiz him on his anti-bullying work and how it all started.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I’m Alex, I’m 29, grew up in Milton Keynes, and I am Head of Partnerships and Development at The Diana Award. I’ve been working at the charity for nearly seven years now. I love travelling, because you get exposed to new people, new ideas and fresh perspectives which means I’m always learning.

What first sparked your interest in tackling bullying?

Like many young people I suffered from bullying at school. It made me feel shy, isolated and at times depressed. You spend 11,000 hours of your life at school, an impressionable time for young minds that truly shapes who you are, what you achieve and indeed your view of the world forever. It’s crazy that we send 13 million children to school everyday yet it can often be an unsafe place where you can’t escape constant abuse, that surely shouldn’t be the case.

How did the idea of Anti-Bullying Ambassadors come into being?

From the pain of bullying came a passion and purpose. I wanted to be able to stand up for myself and stand up for my peers. I didn’t have the confidence, knowledge or skills to do it and it didn’t feel cool to be against bullying in my school. I wanted to make it exciting to be an upstander, and give responsibility to a group of young people to take ownership of their schools approach. My idea was to train student Anti-Bullying Ambassadors, young people whose job it is help themselves and others stand up to all forms of bullying. I started this at age 15, in 2003 and went on to receive The Diana Award, the rest is history!

What’s been the highlight of the Anti-Bullying Ambassador Programme for you?

Stories like Jack who was in Year Seven and getting badly bullied, physically, verbally and online. He sent me an email asking for help, we went back and forth on email a few times sharing some advice, and I told him about some upcoming Anti-Bullying Ambassador training dates. I never heard back until one day I was training at a school and Jack was there! This was the start of something, he implemented so much in his own school, went on to be a part of our youth board and even became BBC Radio 1 Teen Hero accepting his award in front of 10,000 screaming teens at Wembley arena. It’s amazing how you can go from being a victim to a hero, and Jack’s not alone.

Lydia reached out to me when I was doing a back to school worries live stream. After chatting she was brave enough to speak to a teacher about what was going on, which changed the situation but is often the hardest thing because you worry things might get worse. My advice is always when you find someone you trust to speak out to, don’t let that person take over the problem, work with them to think of solutions, that way you regain some power and control, and it gives you a chance to see the situation can be solved by reflecting together… Lydia attended training, joined one of our youth boards, and last year we took her to California to Facebook’s HQ to support our work advising social media companies on safety.

The programme has, so far, trained 28,000 young people in 2,500 schools to be Anti-Bullying Ambassadors and we’ve got to work with some of the biggest companies in the world, developing new programmes, initiatives and partnerships.

Also coming from Milton Keynes, home of football team MK Dons, I’m particularly proud of Tottenham Hotspur FC & England footballer Dele Alli, who I trained to be Anti-Bullying Ambassador at one of the schools I worked at. He has remained an incredibly friendly and all round nice guy and I can’t wait to see him in the World Cup later this year.

Where do you see the programme going in the future?

There are 27,000 schools in the UK, our five year strategy is to offer bullying and online safety programmes to a third of all schools. That’s our focus and I’m always looking for new individuals and organisations to help us.

Changing behaviours and shaping attitudes doesn’t change over night and I don’t think the job is ever done. Hopefully if we can place a programme in each school like The Diana Award’s which is sustainable and increases staff and students ability to drive and foster change it will continue to change lives and create leaders that go on to be leaders in the workplace, online and the world.

If you could give one piece of advice to every young person in the world, what would it be?

The thing that makes you different is actually a strength in disguise, trust me, one day you will be celebrated for who you are.

It’s really important to remember that school is just one part of your life but as soon as you get out into the world, you will want to stand out and you will feel included, even if you don’t right now. And, ‘get excited and make things happen’, when I started, the idea I had at school was just that – an idea, now it’s part of an amazing organisation with amazing staff who have helped it become what it is today.

What does being part of Forbes 30 Under 30 mean to you?

It was such a nice surprise and start to 2018, I hope to use it to shine a spotlight on everything we do, it’s lovely to get recognition. I’m most looking forward to connecting with others on the list and attending some of the international summits. I’m really big on growth in terms of leadership and performance, working with young people you have to be innovative so it’s important I keep pushing myself to learn and understand more about the world.

As well as a thank you to The Diana Award team who are so talented, hard working and supportive a particular thanks to my Mum, who has always been my biggest fan, she believed in my energy, ideas from day one. She always tells people I’m trying to change the world, and while I’m far from that I love the fact that what we’re doing at The Diana Award particularly in schools is having a positive effect, all the data, Ofsted reports and testimonies point to that.

Find out more about Anti-Bullying Training

Our mission is to inspire and recognise social action in young people.

© 2016 The Diana Award. The Diana Award is a registered charity (1117288 / SC0141915) and a company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales number 5739137.


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