Making a world of difference: from Kidz Board to Young Change Maker

Former Kidz Board member Eddie Maxfield tells us how to set up a not-for-profit and have Richard Branson all over your Twitter

How can you make change happen? It’s difficult enough in your own life. We write this in mid-February, surrounded by broken New Year's resolutions and gym memberships where we daren’t work out how much that half-hour swim once a fortnight is now actually costing us. But when it comes to changing any of society's problems, it can make your personal struggles involving chocolate and Doritos seem easy. From the climate crisis to the war in Ukraine, access to food and clean water, not to mention poverty, disease and inequality, making a difference in the face of such problems doesn’t just feel overwhelming, it seems impossible.

Eddie Maxfield is someone who knows how to make a difference. He can now put Young Change Maker on his business card. The former Kidz Board Member has just won a fellowship with the Virgin Money Foundation to be one of eleven Young Change Makers. This innovative social change programme aims to develop entrepreneurship and influencing skills in young adults. As part of the initiative, young people aged 18-26 are invited to apply with ideas for improving their local community. Those selected are given a grant of up to £10,000 and expert support and learning opportunities to bring their vision for social change to life.

Eddie has set up a not-for-profit company to bring about change in his local area. The West Yorkshire Self Advocacy Network hosts social events for disabled people starting with young adults aged 18-30. He also hopes to provide corporate services such as access auditing, consulting and EDI training.

He sees it as a natural progression from his time as a member of the Kidz Board at Whizz-Kidz. “I had been a board member for three years and loved my time advocating for young wheelchair users. It seemed like such a perfect opportunity to set up a local organisation providing opportunities for local disabled people,” he says.

I want to create change for disabled people locally by providing social spaces, collaborating with local businesses and running campaigns to target specific issues the disabled community faces.

Nancy Doyle-Hall, executive director of Virgin Money Foundation, said: “The Young Change Makers programme was born out of a recognition that very often the people who know best the issues that need to be tackled in a neighbourhood are the young people living in these communities.

“We believed that there were young people out there with the talent, passion and insight to create lasting change in our society but who would need resources, investment in their leadership and time to develop their initiative. The first participants of the programme proved this theory to be true, and we are delighted to have had a small role to play in supporting them to begin to develop their social initiatives.” 

Eddie tells Whizz-Kidz how he makes a difference

Can you tell us more about your not-for-profit company? What does it set out to do?

My not-for-profit, West Yorkshire Self Advocacy Network (WYSAN), sets out to deliver services that improve life for local disabled people in West Yorkshire. We aim to provide services to local businesses, such as access auditing and EDI training, at a cost and use this money to run social events and campaigns.

What would you like to achieve with your company?
I’d love to get to a point where it becomes a full-time job after I finish university, and I can deliver these services full-time. We are starting with a social group specifically for 18-30-year-olds, but I’d love to open up more social groups too.  

What do you see as being the big opportunities to change things?
Social groups are such a big opportunity. Individuals coming together and deciding things need to change and striving for that change will always be a formidable power. As Margret Mead [writer and cultural anthropologist] said:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has. 

What are the biggest challenges you face?
There have been a few significant struggles so far, I’m trying to set up everything myself so it has my mark on it, and that can be overwhelming at times, especially alongside university. Another big struggle is using public transport to get to my meetings as a wheelchair user, I’m sure anyone with a disability can appreciate how unreliable public transport can be at times. This is something I know we worked on very frequently at Kidz Board, and I hope to continue working on at West Yorkshire Self Advocacy Network.

What are the most significant issues facing young wheelchair users in your area, and are they the same nationally?
There is much less provision for young disabled people in the north. Many organisations are based out of London, so we can miss out on opportunities the south is provided with. As mentioned previously, public transport is a big issue. It’s a lot scarcer up north than it is in London, making it hard to engage with opportunities. I think there is a big difference in provision between the north and south, and I hope to change this.

What are you most looking forward to?
The Virgin Money Young Change Makers Fellowship, which supports me in setting up WYSAN, has already been a fantastic experience. I’m looking forward to what the rest of the program will bring. Being in a cohort with such incredible people is a great experience in itself, also.

How did you feel when Richard Branson tweeted about you?

There was quite a buzz in our group chat when we all found out. I grabbed a screenshot of the tweet, it’s a great story to tell friends.

What’s the ultimate dream for your company?

The biggest dream for my company is that it grows beyond me and that we can employ local disabled people to deliver more EDI training and access auditing. I’d love to see a difference in my local area after this. I would love to see life be a bit easier for the disabled community, such as; customer service workers having better training, suitable ramps to buildings being available, better upkeep of accessible toilets and more information shared on the accessibility of shops and venues.

Who inspires you?
I’ve met so many people along the way who have inspired me, definitely Penny (Kidz Board Chair) and the other Kidz Board members.

They are an incredible support network and always have such kind words of advice and encouragement. 

What one thing would you change for young wheelchair users in the UK if you could?
Social groups are so important, and more access to social groups would be an incredible change. Meeting other young disabled people can make you feel that you’re not alone. Community is so important. I also think the My First Wheelchair Matters campaign is vital. It offers young people opportunities that their non-disabled peers are automatically provided with. Those early years are so vital.

What do you like to do to relax?
I like to listen to music and audiobooks, I spend a lot of time on buses and trains, and it’s a great way to get some downtime while still being on the move. I also really love sci-fi tv shows. Doctor Who has been an all-time favourite, and The Witcher; I’m looking forward to the new seasons.

How did Whizz-Kidz help you get where you are?
When I joined the Kidz Board, I was out of education and didn’t have much direction.

It helped me see how much I, as an individual, could create change.

This led me to go to university and study law, and I’m now midway through the second year of my law degree. Going to university has been life-changing, I’ve met some incredible people, and the societies I’m involved with are fun. I’m still in touch with the people on the Kidz Board; their friendship has been invaluable, especially throughout the lockdowns when at times, I felt isolated. They always have a listening ear and some brilliant advice.

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