Back to top

Jesse Ashman Interview: “Cripplegate does a lot around empowering communities"

15 December 2020

Jesse Ashman has recently become one of our four new advisers and brings a deep understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion which he has gained through both personal and professional experience. We wanted to give everyone the opportunity to get to know him a bit better, so we asked him a few questions.  


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?  

My name is Jesse. I currently work for The Outside Project, which is based in Islington, and we run a DVA refuge and homeless shelter, and emergency hotel provision as well. And that's specifically for LGBTIQ+ people who are experiencing homelessness. Prior to that, I've worked in mental health, young people's services, and in LGBT campaigning generally. So I have a lot of background in that area. I also have a master's degree in sexual dissidence, which is related to that area as well. My family is from Islington,which is one of my connections to Islington as well as working here. I actually work in a building opposite to the building my dad has worked in for about 20 plus years, probably longer than that, which is not something I would have ever guessed I would be doing! 

Jesse Ashman during the Zoom interview
Jesse Ashman during the Zoom interview

Why did you decide to become an adviser, what did you think that you could bring into the foundation? 

I think I applied to be an adviser of the Cripplegate Foundation because on the call out it was really clear that you were looking for more diversity, and it was really clear that there was an awareness of the specific issues that trans people face. So it just felt like I would be a good fit from that perspective. I also have some connection to Islington, my grandmother spent a lot of time here, and I grew up with her. I also liked the ethos of the foundation, Cripplegate does a lot around empowering communities and not necessarily just funding things that are safe and not necessarily just funding things that are already funded. It is more about the needs of the community and funding in an innovative and different way, and I really liked that approach.  

I'm quite interested in the diversity piece that Cripplegate has started doing, especially because it looks inwardly and outwardly at the same time, which I think is a really good way of doing it.

Is it your first time in an advisory position within a foundation?  

I have done some similar things on advisory boards but never where it is similar to a trustee equivalent. 

Is there any work or project in particular that you’re really looking forward to start working in? 

I'm quite interested in the diversity piece that Cripplegate has started doing, especially because it looks inwardly and outwardly at the same time, which I think is a really good way of doing it. At my old job, I used to advise big corporations on LGBT inclusion specifically and often, they would just focus on one specific area, which doesn't work. So I really liked that Cripplegate seems to be thinking about doing it both in the grant making and in the staff body as well. So that's quite exciting. 

What would you say is the biggest challenge that we face at the moment? 

Probably the biggest challenge is that we're essentially heading into a recession at one of the most difficult times globally, which is quite a big challenge in itself. So it's going to be weighing up how to use more limited resources when there's a much greater need, which isn't really something that necessarily any of us are going to have solutions to, but it's going to be definitely what the next year is shaped by. And I think a lot of the trends I've seen are organisations starting to pivot more towards frontline services and things that make a real material difference really quickly, which is great. But then it leaves behind all the wellbeing, mental health and supplementary services which are so important as well but won't have that really quick material crisis point. So I don't know how we're going to weigh up those two conflicting things when there are limited resources. 

Could you tell us what your favorite part or thing in Islington? 

I think probably Sadler's Wells Theater and Rosebery Avenue leading up to it because that is the bit I remember most from when I was younger, and getting so excited seeing the lights on the trees, especially around winter time. I think Sadler's Wells does a lot for making dance accessible, especially to low income families. The fact that it was somewhere where I was able to go and not feel weird about it, and not feel like I was the only person there who wasn't dressed up and wasn't from a very rich family.