The Collective

Animal Think Tank are a small collective of volunteers with a wide range of experience, knowledge and skills which we have chosen to dedicate to the cause of animal justice.

Mark Westcombe

Mark is a volunteer with Animal Think Tank with a particular interest in ‘Momentum Organising’ and movement building of the Engler brothers; as well as decentralised, non-hierarchical organising methods such as Swarm and Holocracy. His work in Animal Justice is inspired by the UK movement for the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and the Open Source software movement approach to organising. He is interested in Social Movement Theory and how this can support winning audacious campaigns for social change.

Mark has been vegan since 2005. He has previously organised the Animal Rights Gatherings bringing a focus on Movement Building and Strategy; and facilitated a 1 day ‘Animal Liberation Visioning Forum’ in 2017. He co-organised and facilitated the Lush funded ‘AR Principles and Values’ workshops in 2018 which explored and developed a set of shared values for the AR movement. He has facilitated a 2 day strategy workshop for the SAVE Movement UK helping them develop an organisational roadmap and structure.

He has been a volunteer within the environmental and green movement since 1998. He founded the multi award winning Lancaster Cohousing, 2005-2014; and was Co-Founder and Director of the UK Cohousing Network 2006-2015, and Chair 2013-2015. He has been an active member of the Green Party at local and national Scottish level; as well as involved in direct action and Earth First! He also organised several of Lancaster’s QueerFeast, as well as helping organise Lancaster’s Pride in 2007.

Professionally he works as a freelance management consultant and group facilitator specialising in risk mitigation, strategic decision making and project direction on large, complex projects. He has worked for many national and international organisations, including HMRC, British Sugar, NHS, Ministry of HE Indonesia, Ministry of Trade Sweden, MOD, etc. He has lectured on this, as well as project management and nonhierarchical teamwork, at Lancaster University Management School at BSc, MSc and MBA levels since 2001. He is a trainer in Systems Thinking and Group Facilitation for his professional body, The Operational Research Society; as well on a freelance basis. He has twice been awarded teaching prizes for his work on incorporating diversity into the syllabus. He has a 1st class Maths and Operational Research degree from Lancaster University and postgraduate training as a Group Analyst.

He has been an advocate of the Liberation Pledge since the beginning in Oct 2015; he is an avid fell runner, forager, and for getting outdoors generally; he cooks italian influenced wholemeal food.

Laila Kassam

Laila has been involved in social change for most of her career, having worked in the international development sector since 2003. She has worked for NGOs, foundations, government ministries and international research and development institutions.  Her work has focused on conducting research for rural development projects in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This has ranged from planning multi-million dollar projects to assessing their impact on poverty, food security and livelihoods. Her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals and by international organisations including the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO).

Laila was born in the UK and has lived and worked in the UK, Switzerland, Kenya, Guyana, Malaysia and Ghana. In addition she has undertaken short-term projects and consultancies in Uganda, India, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Zambia, Mozambique, St Lucia, Bangladesh and Sierra Leone.

She has a BSc (Hons) in Economics and Politics from the University of Bristol, an MSc in Development Management from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a PhD in Development Economics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Laila became vegetarian in 2010 soon after she started meditating, and started practising veganism in 2013 after educating herself about animal oppression. In 2015 she co-founded the Veterinary Vegan Network with her partner, a vegan veterinary surgeon. She is a co-founder of Ethical Globe, a platform and community that seeks to support vegans to live their values, launching in Spring 2019. Laila was offered a scholarship to attend a 2 week training course at the Ulex Project in Catalonia on ‘The Ecology of Social Movements’  in June 2018. She co-facilitated a one-day training course on Movement Building at the Earth First! Summer Gathering 2018. She also helped organise the Extinction Rebellion mass protests in London, helping to design mechanisms for thousands of volunteers to be integrated into the organisation and coordinate the blockade of Lambeth Bridge. She is currently co-editing a book for Academic Press (Elsevier) entitled ‘Rethinking Food and Agriculture: New Ways Forward’, due to be published in 2020.

Laila completed her Permaculture Design Certificate in 2013. She has a passion for natural building ever since volunteering with the Earthship crew to build an off-grid community centre in Malawi. She loves to read, meditate and spend time in sacred idleness and with other animals, especially her feline housemate Lucky.

Dan Kidby

Dan has been actively involved in grassroots movement building since 2015 when he participated in a six-week occupation of London School of Economics as part of a campaign for free education. As part of this work Dan facilitated large assemblies with hundreds of participants and supported the building of a nationwide and global network of student activists fighting for free education and wider social change. During this campaign he experienced the power of collective action, the freedom of democratic organising and the transformative realisation that radical social change is possible.

Soon after, Dan co-founded Radical Think Tank, a network of activists, community organisers and academics who worked to discover, develop and disseminate best practice in grassroots movement building. This network had a particular focus on building effective democratic organisational structures and developing successful political strategies for transformative change. The network has been involved in campaigns like UCL Cut The Rent, Kings College Climate Emergency, and Extinction Rebellion.

In 2016 Dan volunteered full-time for Sea Shepherd Australia as the donations officer for the (recently retired) Steve Irwin ship and then served as a deckhand during Operation Nemesis, Sea Shepherd’s most recent anti-whaling mission in Antarctica. He then spent months living at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, where he participated in high profile campaigns to oppose the erasure of Indigenous Sovereignty Rights.

Dan has attended trainings in various aspects of movement building by many organisations including Ulex Project, Campaign Bootcamp, Navigate Coop, Organising for Change, International Centre for Nonviolent Conflict, Resist and Renew, Seeds for Change and Ayni Institute, for most of these he was awarded a scholarship to attend. He also has a Masters Degree in Law from London School of Economics and Political Science.

Dan became vegan and active in social change after practicing Zen meditation. His commitment to animal liberation was solidified after he rescued a dying chicken from a factory farm and held her close in his arms as she struggled for her life. His work is inspired and directed by the daily acts of animal resistance in farms, laboratories, circuses, zoos and other spaces of animal oppression. He is a passionate advocate for centring animals in their own liberation movement. He likes being in nature, playing piano and loves the musical Les Miserables a bit too much.

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