Comic Relief can use its cultural influence as “a force for social change”, its new chief executive told an event yesterday.
Samir Patel, who joined the funder earlier this year, was speaking online at an event organised by the charity consultancy and think tank NPC.
Responding to a question about what he had learned in his first months at Comic Relief, Patel told the audience: “The unique thing that Comic Relief has is around being able to deal with entertainment and culture and humour.
“I think the thing I am learning and reflecting on, which is such a big opportunity for us, is how culture can really drive change, and the role it can play in that.
“We are an organisation that historically has dealt with big cultural moments, whether that be Red Nose Day or sporting events and so forth. We use culture in the broadest sense, we use talent, we use entertainment, and I think that that is a force for social change.”
Patel also said that Comic Relief’s cultural reach meant the charity had the potential to share its message with new audiences.
He explained: “It is about meeting people where they are [and asking], ‘How do we engage people’?
“If someone is watching broadcast TV and doesn’t care, or doesn’t want to hear, about gender injustice, we have to take on that challenge and say, ‘How do we intrigue this person or just pique their interests enough? [How do we] see if they do want to hear a bit more?’
“That ability to use culture for change, and Comic Relief’s ability to do that, is really, really strong.”
He described the charity’s main strength as its ability to reach people through “moments of levity”.
New ways of working
Earlier in his talk, Patel said that he had changed working arrangements for his staff to try and relieve pressures caused by the pandemic.
He said he wanted to “help our staff navigate new ways of working”, and predicted that the impact of Covid-19 was likely to “keep going for a while”.
Patel added: “We are doing things like complete flexible working.
“There is no minimum or maximum [time] you have to be in the office. We are changing our office to be more of a collaborative work place for when you do come in.
“[We are doing] lots of things like that, and really embracing this new world and some of the opportunities it gives us.”
Comic Relief announced plans to make up to a quarter of its staff redundant last year, after losing £5m in income as a result of the pandemic.