Vevolution - vegan events and education

Damien Clarkson tells us how he grew Vevolution, a vegan events and education company, which started from an event in London that has grown into the TED Talks of veganism.

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Tell us about yourself and what causes you're working on.

My name is Damien Clarkson, I'm a writer and campaigner with a specialism in vegan and environmental issues. I run a creative agency called The Growing Box and I'm the Co-Founder of Vevolution, which is a vegan and conscious living events and education company.

Currently we're working on rolling out a series of inspirational and educational events under the name Vevolution showcasing vegan people with great stories and ideas.

What motivated you to get started with your cause ? What were your initial goals? And how'd you come up with the idea?

The idea of Vevolution came from a desire to show veganism in a new light. We personally know so many people who live a vegan diet and who are incredibly inspiring. We wanted to give these people a beautiful platform to share their ideas. We also wanted to create events where the primary focus was education and community. Veganism is a social justice movement with the potential to save the lives of millions of animals, it can slow down the impact of climate change and help us tackle a global obesity crisis.

Here is a highlight video of our 2016 showcase event.

What did it take to get your cause off the ground? How has it evolved over time?

I think initially it took a mix of good will and generosity from people willing to believe in us. We knew that we had to offer something different this meant that our production costs were high as we want our events to be in special venues that people feel inspired by. In 2017, we're focused very much on expanding the online side of Vevolution in addition to delivering more events. We want to have 50 free to access talks available online by the end of 2017 and start to develop online courses.

How have you attracted supporters and grown your cause?

Veganism rapid growth in recent years can be very clearly attributed to young people using social media to tell stories of how veganism has positively impacted them. Most people discover Vevolution through Facebook or Instagram. Research shows that people under 28 are most likely to go vegan so we make a very clear effort to reach out to those people thinking about veganism or who are at the start of their vegan journey. Although I definitely think what we're doing has something for everybody.

What's the story behind the business model and sustainability of your cause? Is there a revenue generating component to what you do, or is it mainly volunteer work?

We take the production values of our festival very seriously. For the last festival we invested all of our ticket sales on the venue and production. As we grow over time we definitely see online courses that we develop contributing some revenue. However at the moment we're reliant on sponsorship and we've been really lucky to have some great support. Vevolution's headline sponsor for 2017 is Tideford Organics and it's great we get to work with really forward thinking companies who want to promote veganism is an upbeat forward thinking way.

We're also lucky to have some great volunteers and speakers who give up their time to help us organise the festival and spread the vegan and conscious living message.

What are your goals for the future, and how do you plan to accomplish them?

We want Vevolution to be the Ted Talks of veganism. By that we mean world class events that attract brilliant speakers with big ideas and inspiring stories to tell. We are working on developing a home for the 50 talks we hope to have filmed by December 2017.

Eventually we'd love to take Vevolution to some of Europe's biggest cities within the next 18 months. We very much that veganism needs to be an international movement and we're keen to build links with vegan advocates in Asia to develop a project there potentially in the future.

What are the biggest lessons you've learned so far? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

It's been pretty amazing to be honest. We learnt some things at the last event that will stand us in good stead for future events. I think part of being an entrepreneur is learning what you're good at and when you need to get someone else to help you with the things you struggle with. I think in 2017 we will be better at delegating tasks and focusing on our core strengths.

What's been most helpful to you on your journey? What do you think your biggest advantages have been?

I think both myself and my Co-Founder Judy having a background in communications has been a huge advantage. It means from the get go we have been able to produce professional content with well delivered key messages.

Launching with this level of professionalism helped people who didn't know us believe that we could deliver what we were advertising.

Generally, speaking when it comes to promoting veganism I think I have always had the ability to find common ground with a wide variety of people. This ability to have empathy with other people helps make me an effective communicator when discussing veganism with other people.

What's your inspirational advice for aspiring activists?

Just do it! We live in turbulent and scary times. But things will change, we choose in what way they do change. If you disagree with the scary things Donald Trump is trying to do now is the time to speak up. What I would say is that there is no right or wrong way of activism. Do what you can, utilise your skills for talk about your passions. If you're a musician make songs, if you're a writer create articles. If you're good at organising people go out and do that. There is no right or wrong way to be an activist and don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.

What books would you recommend aspiring activists should read?

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein is a great starting point for understanding how neoliberal capitalism has played a terrible role in much of the poverty and war around the world. Another great one is Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel which examines the global food crisis.

What other activists do you admire?

In the vegan movement I really admire people like the team behind Veganuary. It was a pleasure to work with the on the very first campaign and I am so proud of how they have grown it and made it a global success. Historically I am very inspired by the suffragette and civil rights movement. Groups over the past years who have inspired me have been Pussy Riot, The Yes Men and UK Uncut.

I am really inspired by my friends who I campaigned with in Climate Rush who are all still doing amazing things and all the people in the UK vegan movement who are really making massive change. There are too many to mention here.

Where can we go to learn more?

Damien is a writer, creative and the Co-Founder of Vevolution - a vegan events and education company. He is also the Director of the creative agency The Growing Box where he helps social change organisations tell their stories.

In 2016 he co-created SWINE, a short film exposing the rise of antibiotic resistance in factory farms. He is a widely published writer whose work can be found on the Guardian and Huffington post.

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