Living in: Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland
Director (Policy), Participation and the Practice of Rights
Nicola is a human rights activist with 17 years’ professional experience, including in academia and NGOs. She is currently the Director (Policy) for the Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR), situated in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
PPR aims to put the voice of marginalised groups at the heart of social change, by supporting them to design and implement campaigns to realise their socio-economic rights and render decision-making more participatory. She is a founder staff member of PPR and played a key role in developing PPR’s unique participatory human rights indicator methodology which was recognised as a good practice example by the United Nations in 2012.
Nicola shares responsibility for the strategic direction of PPR, which has grown from a pilot project focused on mental health and housing in North Belfast into an internationally acclaimed human rights organisation working with marginalised people on a wide range of issues including employment and social security, urban regeneration, asylum, homelessness and Irish language rights. Nicola is a board member of member-driven campaigning organisation Uplift, and is a member of the Irish Human Rights Commission's Research Advisory Group.
Nicola holds both an LLB (Hons) degree from the University of Dundee and an LLM in International Human Rights Law from the University of Nottingham. She previously worked as an academic researcher on capital punishment, penal policy and practice at the University of Westminster, and on asylum and refugee issues at UNHCR Liaison Office in Dublin.
My commitment to tackling inequality is deep and longstanding. Issues of voice, exclusion, and dignity have always resonated deeply with me, from supporting vulnerable children as a telephone counsellor with Childline, to working with refugees and asylum seekers with UNHRC. I believe that we are all connected as human beings, and we act to protect others because of our common humanity.
My particular area of interest is socio-economic inequalities, and how power relationships operate in states, organisations, and domestic settings to either enable people to flourish and fulfil their rights, or to exclude and dominate. Through my work I have learned the importance of not only getting a change on the ground, but also of how you get that change. By placing tools and opportunities in the hands of marginalised communities to enable them to shape their own campaigns, I have seen remarkable transformations in policy and practice, but most importantly in people themselves.
To study with academics and researchers at LSE, who are carrying out cutting edge research on global inequalities, is an amazing opportunity in itself. However, the focus on peer learning is equally exciting. In my experience, it is through conversations that opportunities and ideas for change emerge - often casual conversations among activists and those in tight spaces seeking solutions. It's clear that organic network building and learning from other participants is among the core purposes of the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity Programme, and I relish the opportunity to learn from others engaged in struggles around inequality.
In the future I am interested in democratising human rights and equalities work so that the kind of bottom up approach used by organisations like PPR is less of an anomaly. I would like to produce accessible writings on grassroots movements for social and economic equality, and develop my interest in sustainable activism to ensure expertise in the field is retained to support future generations of activists.