Giselle Green: editor Constructive Voices

Estimated reading time:8 minutes, 37 seconds

Everyone has a story. Are things getting better? Or is the world a much worse place? Here’s how NCVO-based Giselle Green is helping charities and social enterprises find Constructive Voices to share their solutions. Interview by Nicola Baird. Photos by Kimi Gill

Giselle Green: “At the end of the day it’s the consumers of news who call the shots. If they can get the message across to news editors that they want a more balanced view of the world, and that they want to hear about solutions not just problems, then we could see a big shift in our news media.  There’s already lots of evidence that audiences prefer – and share more on social media – stories that are solutions focussed and that they’re turning off negative news.” (c) Kimi Gill for Islington Faces

Anyone working in NCVO’s building by Regents Canal, a few minutes’ walk from King’s Cross station and Granary Square, has lucked out. For starters, the organisation champions the voluntary sector and has more than 13,000 members so you can love what you do. NCVO is also based in a modern office, with views across the water, which means that staff can enjoy lunch and breakaways from their desks in a quiet courtyard overlooking barges and wildlife. NCVO – the abbreviation for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations shares this prime Islington real estate with colleagues working for Acevo (Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations), Peta (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals), The Churches Conservation Trust and Bond (UK network for organisations working in international development).

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People familiar with the third sector will know NCVO champions the idea that volunteering is essential for a better society. But they may be less familiar with the way it’s trying to tilt the news agenda towards more constructive stories. The Constructive Voices media project began thanks to an idea by former NCVO chairman, newsreader, Sir Martyn Lewis.

For the past two years Giselle Green, who is editor of Constructive Voices, has been working on this. “Sir Martyn long-believed that the media was biased towards negative news and  that charities were a huge, untapped source of positive stories about how many of the big problems we face in society are being tackled”.

Constructive Voices has two elements to it,” explains Giselle. “Firstly, we’re championing constructive journalism, a more solutions-focused approach to news. Rather than just concentrate on problems, on what’s going wrong, journalists also examine responses to problems and how those problems might be solved. They look for evidence of why responses are working – and also not working. It’s rigorous journalism that sparks constructive dialogue. It’s not about fluffy, ‘and finally’ stories,” she adds. “This focus on solutions dovetails with the other element of Constructive Voices – finding, and sharing with journalists, stories and case studies from charities and social enterprises about how they’re tackling problems and what solutions they are coming up with. We cover a whole range of topics including mental health, homelessness, refugees, the environment and creating cohesive communities.”

Clearly the secret to the success of Constructive Voices is being able to connect the media with charities, and that’s precisely Giselle’s strength.  After a long career on the media frontline, including a post-grad in Radio Journalism at City University in St John’s Street; working as a reporter for BBC Radio Cambridge and a reporter/news reader for BBC Radio London, plus being a producer on Radio 4’s the World At One and PM she “then had a long career break bringing up three children before going back to the world of paid work.”

Her next roles included running the media campaign for independent mayoral candidate, Siobhan Benita, for the London 2012 election and being in charge of campaigning and communications for a “fledgling political party, the National Health Action party which was campaigning for better funding for the NHS and against NHS privatisation.”

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Giselle Green with Salvatore who delivers hot and cold food to work places close to his restaurant, Salvatore Cucina at 40-42 Caledonian Road. (c) Kimi Gill for Islington Faces

Places Giselle Green likes in Islington

  • It’s wonderful at the end of a working day to be able to walk along Regent’s Canal to King’s Cross station. A few times I’ve walked all the way to Camden and then got the bus the rest of the way home. Since working here I’ve become a bit obsessed with the wildlife on the canal and enjoy following the progress of the family of swans and geese growing up. It’s not all good: I’ve seen a swan attack a gosling, nests with eggs broken and a lost cat. I also met a cyclist who’d fallen off, sitting on the tow path with a broken arm.
  • In the summer, I like to eat my lunch outside. There are a few tables in the courtyard outside NCVO so I can sit by the canal in the sunshine. Lunch is usually soup and sushi from Abokado on 280 Pentonville Road or a tuna salad from the lovely Salvatore from Sicily who delivers hot and cold food to local work places. He also has a restaurant Salvatore Cucina in the basement, 40-42 Caledonian Road.
  • A wonderful Middle Eastern café, Middl-Eat, has recently opened at 13 Caledonian Road, another great spot for lunch.
  • If I’m around here in the evening, my favourite places to eat are Caravan on Granary Square and Granger & Co just behind King’s Cross station. I’ve heard great things about Dishoom, 5 Sable Street, so that’s on my hit list. The Lighterman, overlooking the canal is a good spot for a drink. And there are fabulous and unusual ice creams at the tiny Ruby Violet, 3 Wharf Road, also near the canal.
  • I love that there’s a food market outside King’s Cross station every week – and usually manage to grab a free taster of Spanish omelette on my way into the tube.
  • For cultural stuff, I like to go to Kings Place, 90 York Way. The concert hall is wonderful and Jewish Book Week always attracts some big names. This year I’m really looking forward to a panel discussion, Trump ‘On Trial’, with Jonathan Freedland, Howard Jacobson and Simon Schama on 4 March. I saw a great musical – In the Heights – a couple of Christmases ago at the King’s Cross Theatre behind King’s Cross Station.It was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton.
  • NCVO’s staff Christmas party is often close to Angel. We’ve been to the Big Chill, 257-259 Pentonville Road and The Driver, 2-4 Wharfdale Road. We always seem to end up having our team Christmas lunch at Mem & Laz at 8 Theberton Street. Good food and a friendly atmosphere.

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Giselle Green helps NGOs share more constructive stories about their work. “Locally there are many charities including Islington Giving, Action on Hearing Loss and the National Autistic Society. The Canal and River Trust does a great job of keeping Regents Canal looking glorious.” (c) Kimi Gill for Islington Faces

Sharing
Now Giselle is busy finding case studies – from any source, not just NCVO members – that can be shared with print, radio and TV journalists working at national and local media. “We’ve enabled coverage across a range of news outlets, such as the BBC World Service, the One Show, Radio 5live, the Guardian, Telegraph, Sunday Times and women’s glossy magazines.

Not every success story will be a shoo-in to grip the nation, says Giselle. “I deal with stories in different ways. If someone sends me a particularly gripping story I’ll proactively approach a journalist to see if they’re interested. Sometimes there’ll be a news development which makes a story I’ve previously been sent more relevant; and now that Constructive Voices is getting more known, journalists will approach me, asking for help sourcing stories and case studies.”

For years news journalists have given coverage to the worst storms, the biggest stock market crashes and public disasters, it’s why you don’t see headlines claiming, “Not many dead”. But as falling newspaper circulations reveal, younger readers have a reduced appetite for misery. People still need – and want – news, but they want it served up differently. As Katharine Viner, editor of the Guardian put it (16 Nov 2017) “If people long to create a better world, then we must use our platform to nurture imagination – hopeful ideas, fresh alternatives, belief that the way things are isn’t the way things need to be. We cannot merely criticise the status quo; we must also explore the new ideas that might displace it. We must build hope.”

To build hope the next generation of reporters need to be confident about following new, solutions-based news angles. That’s why Giselle also, “gives talks to journalism students (the first one was at City University in Islington). I tell them about constructive news and how it will help them tell a more balanced story. She also sets up collaborations between journalism colleges and charities and social enterprises which enable spokespeople and beneficiaries to be interviewed by the journalists of tomorrow.  It works really well as both the journalism students and the people from the charity or social enterprise get to practise their interview technique and discuss it afterwards. It also establishes links between the two which will hopefully lead to future stories.”

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird dot green at gmail dot com.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola