A vision of a world built with integrity.

A vision of a world built with integrity.

#19 SARAH CORBETT - how the craftivist collective creates change with 'gentle protest'

February 14, 2019

Sarah Corbett is an award-winning activist, campaign consultant, Ashoka Changemakers fellow and founder of Craftivist Collective who has helped change government laws, business policies, hearts and minds.

Sarah discovered Craftivism (a term coined by American writer and crafter Betsy Greer in 2003)  but with no other projects or groups available to join in with she began creating her own Craftivism projects which led to her founding Craftivist Collective in 2009 after people around the world wanted to join in.

‘Gentle protest’ is a term and campaigning approach that Sarah and the Craftivist Collective have become known for. When we think of activism we often think of confrontation and aggression. Not something beautiful and heartwarming. ‘Gentle protest’ reminds us to be that which you want to see in the world. Compassion, empathy, kindness and love as well as thoughtful campaign strategies are used to create beautiful messages that can open people’s hearts and minds to affect positive change.

One of Sarah’s guiding mantra’s (that she has tattooed on her shoulder) is ‘A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart’ from Martin Luther King’s 1959 sermon. This reminds us that although what we are trying to achieve may be a difficult, painful or heart wrenching we must approach people with love and have a strong strategy to be most effective in achieving the change we want to see.

The fashion industry has seen the impact of the Craftivist Collective through their Mini Fashion Statements which are ‘shop dropped’ in the pockets of garments in fashion shops around the world, anytime of the year supporting the campaign organisation Fashion Revolution. Scrolls, tied with a pretty bow and featuring an invitation to “please open me”, are used as reminders of the role we can play as consumers. Designed to make us think about how the clothes we buy and wear are made, and how we might be able to help tackle problems like poor conditions for workers or the use of materials that are damaging to the environment.

One of our nation’s best-loved shops Marks and Spencer (M&S) has also felt the power of ‘gentle protest’. Asked by the CEO of the charity ShareAction, Craftivist Collective created a campaign encouraging M&S to pay staff the real Living Wage. Carefully selected Craftivists across the UK hand-stitched bespoke messages onto M&S handkerchiefs as bespoke gifts for the board members and its largest shareholder companies, encouraging them to not ‘blow it’ but use their power for good governance and lead the way in the retail sector. These were delivered to the board during the company’s 2015 AGM. Following a series of discussions, in April 2016 M&S announced they would pay current Living Wages to the 50,0000 staff who were paid the national minimum wage. They are still working to make M&S an accredited Living Wage Employer. 

Most of us have a fear of the consequences of speaking out in some way. The idea that troublemakers don’t get on in life is something that we can be confronted with. However dialogue is changing and we are beginning to realise it’s the people who think differently, and speak up gently and thoughtfully that can often make things change for the better.


Listening to Sarah’s story makes us realise that we could all have a little more of a ‘gentle protest’ approach to life.