This time last year Clifford Chance and One Young World were proud to co-sponsor TargetJob’s Undergraduate of the Year Award for Impactful Social Action, in search of outstanding students who are passionate and committed to driving social change. As part of Clifford Chance's commitment to supporting the communities in which they operate, the firm is committed to supporting young talent in acting as change agents.
We are delighted to announce the Award’s latest recipient, Tiara Sahar Ataii! Tiara founded SolidariTee in January 2017, and it is now the largest entirely student-run charity supporting the international assistance of refugees and asylum seekers. The Award searched for those leading sustainable change by providing access to justice, education or finance - Tiara and SolidariTee are an inspiring example of this.
As part of the Award, Tiara is undertaking work experience at Clifford Chance, has received £500 towards driving SolidariTee forward, and has been invited to attend the One Young World 2021 Summit and join our Ambassador community.
We recently spoke with Tiara to get her thoughts on the Award and to hear more about SolidariTee. You can read our chat below to find out more…
You founded SolidariTee in January 2017, and now you manage the largest entirely student-run charity supporting the international assistance of refugees and asylum seekers. In all your success, how have you managed the inevitable challenges that come with setting up and running a charity?
In my second year at university, after the umpteenth 5am alarm, I came to one mantra that would help me through the brutally long hours on the job: that there is always the time in the day to do what you feel passionate about. A lot of SolidariTee in the early days was simply trial and error, but being brave and frank enough with myself to give up on an idea I had that wasn’t working, or see the flaws in my own leadership was the key to progress. But more than this, getting people on board that are much more talented than myself is what has allowed SolidariTee to grow to the largest student-led charity in the UK! I am blessed with the most passionate, responsible, and bright group of students that you could ever find, with diverse female leadership. It really is down to them that SolidariTee has come this far.
Do you have three top tips for young minds who have a story, a passion and the motivation to set up a social initiative but aren’t sure where to start?
Think really carefully about what skills you have to offer, and what you can feasibly pick up. For example, if you’re passionate about access to healthcare but aren’t a trained medical professional, instead of trying to do work that may put beneficiaries at risk, consider what else you could contribute, such as an advocacy campaign, fundraising, or coordinating qualified volunteers.
Keep humble and, above all, curious. You have something to learn from everyone. Speak less, and ask the question ‘why’ more from everyone you come across.
Just do it! For something to make an impact, it doesn’t have to be a permanent fixture. It’s about the butterfly effect – by impacting and inspiring those around you they will be spurred on to make their own change. If all fails you will have learnt something and prepared yourself better for your next initiative.
In what ways has the Impactful Social Action Undergraduate Of The Year Award supported SolidariTee and do you have any advice for students who are thinking of applying?
Running the largest student-led charity in the UK entails a wide variety of tasks, and self-promoting therefore falls very far down the list, even though it is key to getting our message out there. Historically we have always focussed upon getting out accurate, timely information on the refugee crisis, and therefore having another organisation advocating about us and the impact we’re making is incredibly valuable in directing more people towards us and the crucial work we’re doing.
What does leadership mean to you?
Internally, I always think back to Alexa’s comment (Alexa Netty is now the Executive Director of SolidariTee) that being a good leader is being an umbrella for your team – you shield them from the rain to allow them to grow and flourish. That’s also what’s at the heart of the SolidariTee vision: empowering students to be the change they want to see.
Externally, I often think of Jane McAlevey’s distinction between ‘organising’ and ‘mobilising’. Whilst ‘mobilising’ is ‘getting people off the couch who agree with you’, organising is ‘base expansion’, in other words, getting into contact with people who have no shared values with you, and catalysing them to change their opinions. To me, true leadership is organising, and is what we have always tried to work towards at SolidariTee by creating a culture change on campus and a wave of support that calls people in, and doesn’t call them out.
What do you hope to gain by attending the One Young World 2021 Summit in Munich?
Four years of SolidariTee has taught me that the most instructive experiences are with people from all walks of life. As I frequently say: you have something to learn from everyone. Therefore, attending the summit will be the most wonderful opportunity to forge out those connections that are the life and blood of an organisation like ours.