This week we meet James Baggaley, Head of Communications and Engagement at the UCL Policy Lab. Here, he chats to us about working on the Obama campaign in 2012 and, more recently, a special edition of the Policy Lab Magazine...
What is your role and what does it involve?I am the Head of Communications and Engagement at the UCL Policy Lab. The Lab brings together ideas, people, and institutions to tackle the big problems facing communities here in the UK and around the world. My role involves helping to build those connections with partners and communities. And, critically, helping to communicate our ideas and methods - turning complex ideas into compelling stories.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?I’ve been at UCL for just over a year now. Before this, I was working on global health and international affairs at King’s. Before that, I worked for Amnesty International on human rights and international issues.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?We’ve recently launched ’Ordinary hope’ with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The project tries to understand how we can make real change, tackling the big issues we face as a society. At universities, we often focus on analysing a challenge - and that’s super important. But understanding how we take that analysis and tackle the problem we’ve identified seems critical to me.
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?I am currently working on a special edition of the Policy Lab Magazine. We release three magazines a year and it’s an excellent opportunity to communicate the spirt of the Lab. We also run a newsletter that anyone can sign up to receive.
What is your favourite album, film and novel?This is impossible for me, so I’ll tell you three I’ve loved recently.... Redcar les adorables étoiles, from Christine and the Queens, and Close and The Years by Annie Ernaux.
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?I can give you my favourite Tommy Cooper joke...
I sleep like a baby. Every morning I wake up screaming around 2 o’clock.
Who would be your dream dinner guests?The writer Christopher Isherwood, the actress Ingrid Bergman, the singers Aretha Franklin and George Michael, the politician Bobby Kennedy, the poet Maya Angelou, and the artist Johannes Vermeer.
What advice would you give your younger self?It’s fine. And you’ll find a way to get there.
What would it surprise people to know about you?I spent some time working on the Obama campaign in 2012. I was based in the then-swing state of Virginia. It gave me a genuine love for the South!
What is your favourite place?London on one of those sunny summer evenings that seem to go on forever. They may be rare, but when they arrive, they’re just perfect.
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