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Thomas Coombes

Strategist

Thomas founded hope-based communications in July 2019 after realising that too many social justice movements were pouring their energy into fighting the things they opposed, rather than nurturing the things they wanted to see in the world.

After 15 years working in public relations, speechwriting and branding for big global organizations, Thomas wants to help non-profits communicate as effectively as companies and governments. He specialises in developing values-based messaging and developing practical strategies to turn those messages into public narrative with practical PR and storytelling tactics.

Before going solo, Thomas was lucky enough to work for three causes he holds dear – human rights, anti-corruption and European integration – at Amnesty International, Transparency International, and the European Commission, having started out at the EU office of PR firm Hill & Knowlton. He ran global campaigns ranging from promoting EU rules to make mobile phone calls cheaper to helping refugees and making companies more transparent and accountable. He has carried out communications training all over the world, adapting corporate media trainings to help activists and policy experts make the case for social change.

Thomas grew up in Ireland but is a citizen of the world. He holds Irish, French and British nationality, has a Dutch partner and lives in Berlin. He has lived and worked all over Europe and speaks six languages. He sits on the board of two UK human rights groups – Rene Cassin and Rights Watch UK.

Why are you a strategist for good?

“Quite simply, my grandparents are survivors of the Shoah. Every day when I was growing up I tried to understand how such a thing could have happened. The only thing I could come up with was the need to honor their legacy by trying to prevent such a thing ever happening again. But I also grew up in the west of Ireland where there was little interest in that story. There was born the desire to make people care about the rights of all humans – to make heard the stories that need to be told. Above all, it is a belief that we are all human, and we just have to do a better job of cultivating empathy for each other.”

What’s your superpower?

“Words. Growing up in Ireland must have given me the “gift of the gab.” Or maybe the fusion of Irishness and Jewishness created a mutant superpower of never being lost for words. In the high expert circles of international organizations, I often felt my only “USP” was being able to translate policy jargon into words that would resonate with everyday people back home in Limerick. And yes, I can also write Limericks – the short rude poems named after the town where I was born – on demand.”

Who is your intellectual crush?

“I write a blog about world literature so it is hard to pick just one. But Zadie Smith’s writing always seems to reach me at a gut level. Her novels find the extraordinary in ordinary people, and nobody else tells the story of social mobility, of changing social status, like she does. Her books are the literary representative of our multi-cultural, diverse societies. I also highly recommend her post-Trump election essay On Optimism and Despair.”

Clients:

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

Human Rights Watch

JustLabs

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

PICUM –The Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants