Campaign Manager – Travis Kelly



Travis works as a campaigner for 38 degrees. His past two campaigns involved attenuating the effects that were brought by the reforming and privatization of the British National Health System.


About 38 degrees:

An independent and neutral campaigning office, with 1,5 million members, trying to facilitate and empower local people.



Through Tristan Copley Smith.

Brewing Time:

45 min (15min delay, because of London’s gorgeous bus networks + traffic)


Eye-opening. Slightly intimidating, yet mainly relaxed.

Number of Questions:



A sunny place outside of a Café near the office in Bowling Green Lane, sipping lemon-ginger tea and hot chocolate.

Feedback on the idea of CuriosiTEa:

“The experience was quite pleasant. I like the idea of CuriosiTea and talking to different campaigners and finding out why they do it. It would be quite interesting to read the blog after a lot of people have participated and given their thoughts.”



Travis, How would you describe your job?

A lot of my work revolves around finding campaign ideas that 38degrees members can campaign on. I work on a campaign to protect the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. So, I keep an eye on the news, looking for developments, that are happening around the country, that are related to the health service and seeing if we can effectively use 38degrees members to campaign on making a change to a particular aspect of the health service.


How did you get involved in 38degrees? You’re originally from Australia, right?

Yes. Well, there’s a huge charity/NGO/Campaigning world here in London, so that’s one of the reasons why I live here. But yes, I didn’t really study anything too related to what I’m doing right now. I studied creative writing and then I travelled for quite along time after university doing bits and bobs of work, that weren’t career related – I taught English in a few different places, but yet when I came to England a few years ago, I got more heavily involved in activism and campaigning, and that’s when I began to volunteer at 38degrees. I did a five months volunteering, then had a couple of different jobs such as working for an environmental campaign and a health charity, then I came back to 38degrees as a freelancer last September, managing the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Groups) Campaign*(details below) , which was a nationwide campaign, that involved a lot of different groups all around the country. Now I’m on a six month staff contract, working on other NHS campaigns, but also other campaigns that aren’t related to NHS, as well.


What motivates you?

When I was traveling, I noticed a lot of different injustices in third world countries. Then you kind of get the feeling that you want to change things. You only got a certain amount of time on this planet, so you don’t want to spend that making money for a big company that’s not really contributing anything to society at large. I’m obviously motivated by creating change. I don’t think I’d be able to find a motivation to go to work with the sole motivation of making more money for some big company. That would be quite difficult to get up in the morning, I would imagine…

I think one of the best sort of ways that we can bring about change is to involve local people that haven’t been involved in politics before. I think a lot of the bad things happening in politics have been done because people haven’t been engaged with what’s happening. So if you can find a way to engage millions of people on issues then bad political decisions are a lot harder to go through. Obviously the internet and social media has made it much more easy to engage people for all sorts of different issues. And once you engage them on one issue, it is a lot easier to engage them on other issues. So, yeah, that is why I think I work for 38degrees.


What skills do you think are needed?

Campaigning involves a lot of organizational skills. A lot of your time is spent on mobilizing and gathering different people through events to support coalition building. A certain amount of writing skills are involved, too. 38degrees has a very peculiar style of writing – you have to make it extremely accessible to a variety of people. I think that’s what the modern world is like,  these days if you want to get through to people it has to be very easy to engage in things because they have such time pressures.

. . . that makes me think of the email I sent you ( it took Travis over a week to get back to my “short novel” length email ). . .

(laughing) That is not what I was alluding to. But yeah, my sort of writing skills are probably more suited to other types of writing…


How did you attain your skills?

I don’t know if it is something that you can really learn that easily. And I am not sure if it is something that I’m really naturally suited to. I think there are other people in the office, who have much better interpersonal skills than I do. So in some ways, my skills are not entirely conducive to campaigning. Yet in other ways, I think I’ve got quite good management skills. When we were running the CCG Campaign we got one hundred and fifty groups around the country, trying to organize campaigns. So that involved an incredible amount of management trying to support those group. I think you can certainly learn about campaigning strategy and how to best win a campaign, but those innate skills are slightly different…


Are there different profiles of Campaigners?

Yes. At 38degrees everyone is a campaigner, but for instance James and David; they are basically our tech-guys. They are campaigners at heart, but they’ve got loads of technology skills as well. Whereas other people in the team deal more with media agencies or have incredibly good people skills, so they are really good at building coalitions. There are people in the office, who are incredibly good at just calling up people, building relationships and making things happen. Also one of our staff members used to be a lawyer, so he comes in quite handy, when things are a bit more complicated in a legal sense.


How much do you earn?

25,000 pounds. Compared to other jobs it is quite good, and it is not hard to live in London, but certainly I couldn’t support a family with this wage. I shouldn’t complain though, a lot of other campaigning jobs are below 20,000 pounds.


What are the social and physical structures of your work environment like?

I usually work in the office. Although in a couple of weeks we are going down to Bristol, to meet some members there. They had a very successful campaign, that was part of the CCG campaign, that I was talking about earlier, so we will go down and have dinner with them to find out, how they ran their campaign and how we could have helped them more, to see what we should improve on.


What is the social atmosphere like there?

It is really good – incredibly relaxed and friendly. Half of my friendship network is from people from 38degrees, so we are actually good friends and very close. It is definitely a good place to work – very compassionate. So, if you are struggling with something, there will certainly be help to get you through.


What do you like/dislike about your work?

/// LIKE ///

I like the fact that I feel like I am creating positive change. Some of the changes, that we have helped to bring about, are helping to increase the health of the population. So, what’s not to like about that?

/// DISLIKE ///

It can be quite a high pressure environment, because we are a fast moving campaigning organization, we will see an article in the newspaper in the morning and by midday we will have a campaign running on it. So there is a lot of pressure to stay on the ball. The stress is just an unfortunate result of how we operate. If we weren’t so fast moving, we wouldn’t have any effect whatsoever.

Yes, I remember Tristan saying: “Oh, campaigners are always very stressed!”

Yes, that is a very common thing with campaigners. They don’t seem to have a very healthy work-life balance. I think it is because they get to a stage where they feel the responsibility for so much stuff on their shoulders, that if they don’t work constantly they might not achieve what they want to achieve and that might let down people.

How much do you work?

I am quite serious about work life balance, so I tend to do my 8 hours really. Others work a lot longer hours, but in the long run, it is much better to have a healthy work life balance, to be able to do it for a lot longer and probably have more impact.

How many emails per day do you get?

Me, personally, not a huge amount. Most of the emails I get are from other staff members, but there are some emails coming in from the people in the health world, that I work with. But 38degrees gets an incredible amount of emails. By thursday morning we had already received a thousand emails for the week. It’s probably going to be double that for the rest of the week. But that was a busy week, so it wouldn’t always be that much. We have someone, who spends their entire day dealing with those email enquiries.

After my email staying without response, I called twice. They were really nice and said “We’re gonna get back to you. We’re gonna get back to you.” – But well, they never did. . .

Yes, there is often ruthless prioritization when we are very busy and have campaigns changing day to day that need urgent attention.

How long does someone usually stay in that work field/environment? Is there an age average?

I don’t think you could really do it forever. In our office the oldest person is in their thirties, I am 30 myself, but I am one of the older ones with all of the other people being quite younger. It is definitely something that demands a lot of energy and enthusiasm and dedication. It’s not something you could really do, when you have a family.

I was just wondering: How many of you have a family?

Zero. And a lot of us are single as well.


How long do you think you will be doing this work?

That is a good question. I don’t know. I am only on a six month contract, so depending on how the NHS campaign goes, I might not be working for them anymore in three month’s time. It could be quite interesting to work for another campaign anyway, so actually I would be happy with both, to stay or to move on really. 38degrees is great, because it is multi-issue, so one day you will be working on disabilities and one day on a civil liberties campaign, but I would like to work for a campaign with an organization, that focusses only on civil liberties, which I am really passionate about. Just to see if that engages me more or whether I do get tired of the same thing after a while. It might also be interesting to work in a less kind of hectic environment as well, just to … have a break, I guess.


What do you think is the most common misconception people have about campaigners?

Related to 38degrees, people often think that we have some sort of agenda, or they think, because there is a conservative government in power and we are criticizing the conservative government, that we are all far-left-communists or socialists that are trying to push that agenda through. But if Labour was in power now, we would be criticizing them just as much. It is important to maintain neutral, so people can’t just dismiss you, by saying “Oh they just say that, because that’s part of their agenda.”

How would you like 38degrees to be seen?

I would like it to be seen as a collection of 1,5 million people, who don’t all have a binding ideology. 38degrees members are a collection of people from all sorts of political backgrounds with different views on many different things. You sign up for every campaign, so 38degrees is 1,5 million people coming together on each different issue, that they care about. It is trying to facilitate and empower local people.


What do you think the future role of campaigners will be like? What do you wish it to be?

I hope that campaigners will be able to use the digital world even more effectively to engage people in an even more direct way. Looking far down the line, it would be great to find a direct democracy and having a say in a day-to-day politics rather than voting every four years. So the digital world really has an important role of engaging people and getting them involved in the political process in ways that we haven’t really fully imagined yet. I think the digital world has a great way of being able to hold politicians to account of the decisions they make. And I hope as campaigners can find ways of making that happen to an even greater effect. So, next time, when they rush through damaging reforms on our NHS, that with the ability to create this public outrage, there will be so many people engaged, it will force politicians to stop what they are doing. It would be great for that to be backed in legislation, so that if a certain amount of people object to issues they would be able to halt poor political choices. But this would need a lot of work to be fully realised! Hopefully though, as we move on, things like that will emerge.

 — THANK YOU for tea, time and insights, Travis!



*CCG-Campaign Details:


By reforming the National Health System, instead of it being centrally run and publicly funded, and publicly run, they took all that funding and split it into 212 different areas all around the country and basically opened up the whole service to privatization. Now these 212 Clinical Commissioning Groups, decide what local services should be run in that area, they’re basically pressured into using private providers, so it’s a completely fundamental change to our health system, that to many people is going to be to their detriment to have private health care involved in the NHS.

My job was to offer support and guidance and direction to local groups, that 38degrees members would get together, so they would go and visit the CCGs. What they did is, they handed over a legal document that 38degrees members had worked out. We had a fundraiser to create this legal document, which is quite complicated; we asked the lawyers how we could protect the NHS, now that the reforms had gone through, and they said that a good thing to do, would be to put some wording in all the CCGs constitutions saying various things about not hiring companies, that use tax avoidance schemes, not hiring unethical companies, having lots of transparency, lots of engagement with the public. Once that was done, we got local groups together in all the CCG areas, getting them to visit their CCGs to hand over this document and ask them to include the amendments into their constitutions.

Related Links

The CCG_Campaign

The NHS_Campaign


Personal Conclusion:

I seem to meet the main biological requirements for becoming a campaigner: I’m under 30 and single. To become a campaigner though, it is even more important to have a heart filled with passion and the wish to create a positive change. That combined with excellent people and management skills prepares you for the hard but fulfilling work of a campaigner. I do wonder though, if this differentiates, when talking to other campaigners. I imagined visual work to be more in the foreground and found that it is strongly secondary.


Set of Questions

1. How would you describe your job?

2. How did you get involved in 38degrees?

3. What motivates you?

4. What skills do you think are needed?

5. How did you attain your skills?

6. Are there different profiles of Campaigners?

7. How much do you earn?

8. What are the social and physical structures of your work environment like?

9. What is the social atmosphere like there?

10. What do you like/dislike about your work?

11. How much do you work?

12. How many emails per day do you get?

13. How long does someone usually stay in that work field/environment? Is there an age average?

14. How long do you think you will be doing this work?

15. What do you think is the most common misconception people have about campaigners?

16. How would you like 38degrees to be seen?

17. What do you think the future role of campaigners will be like? What do you wish it to be?

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