At Meningitis Research Foundation, we are lucky to have a team who are passionate and dedicated about defeating meningitis and septicaemia.
Sam Brightbart joined Meningitis Research Foundation in July as our full-time CoMO (The Confederation of Meningitis Organisations) Member Engagement and Development Manager.
CoMO is an international membership network, working to reduce the incidence and impact of meningitis worldwide.
CoMO brings together patient groups, health professionals and organisations, meningitis survivors and families from more than 50 countries to help prevent meningitis.
Sam is here to look at what we’re offering CoMO members and how we can best meet their needs.
We caught up with Sam to find out a bit more about him and his role.
What made you want to join Meningitis Research Foundation?
For years I had been yearning for a job in which I can make a genuine positive impact – partly because that has always been important to me, but partly I was influenced by the Effective Altruism movement.
When I saw the job advertised, I thought it sounded like somewhere I could put my skills into the service of something valuable. I think meningitis is a cause on which we can make genuine progress in the coming years if we do things right.
What was your background before Meningitis Research Foundation?
I trained as a linguist – studying French and then translation at university, and working as a translator, proofreader, and editor. Over the years, I added German, Spanish and Italian to my working languages.
Throughout that part of my career, however, I maintained an interest in campaigning, and volunteered in various communications roles for different charities and non-governmental organisations, in areas such as health, environment, animal rights and ethical banking.
What sparked your interest in languages?
It's hard to say, as I think I just loved them from the start! In the early years of secondary school, I just really liked trying to learn all the different rules and systems, and having a very tangible sense of making constant progress in how well I could understand and express myself.
I also just love the many little quirks of other languages, and how they can enable you to see various things about the world in subtly different ways.
What is your role and what does it involve?
As my job title suggests, there are two main parts to my role.
Firstly, engagement, so communicating to members, sending them updates about what other people in the network are doing, making sure they know about all the different resources we offer to support their advocacy work, and encouraging them to get involved with international campaigns such as World Meningitis Day on 5 October.
Secondly, development, so facilitating connections between members, helping them solve problems, sharing useful courses or contacts which may help them grow as organisations, listening to their feedback and using it to make plans that will make membership more useful for everyone in the future.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
I'm only six weeks into it but it's already pretty varied and, I think, will only become more varied as I go along.
I like that it requires both strategic planning about what we will do to best meet our members’ needs and support them in the fight against meningitis, and the attention to detail that I have developed as a linguist – when I'm proofreading the latest members’ newsletter, for example.
What is an interesting fact about you that few people know?
This is only going to be interesting to people from the UK, but back in 2008 I appeared on a New Year's Eve special edition of the game show Deal or no Deal as part of the house band.
My friend had written a comedy emotional ballad about the programme which we performed together. Quite a surreal experience!
What is something you didn’t know about meningitis before working here, but think others should know now?
I honestly didn't know that bacterial meningitis can kill so soon after the onset of symptoms – within 24 hours in many cases.
I think that lends a particular character to how our communications work. Phrases like “raising awareness” are such clichés in the charity sector that I think some people can switch off when they hear them. But when you're dealing with a disease that can kill that quickly, raising awareness makes a genuine difference.
If you know the symptoms, and know that urgent medical treatment is required, you could save a friend’s life, and that's not an exaggeration.
Outside of Meningitis Research Foundation, what are your hobbies?
I'm a musician, and I make music as a solo artist and part of the rock band Overdog. We actually have some new material coming out pretty soon.
I also play poker, which is an endlessly fascinating game, and enjoy badminton, which is a good thing because I really struggle to motivate myself to exercise if it's not in the form of a game…
What are you most looking forward to bringing to Meningitis Research Foundation?
Fundamentally, I want to evaluate the best ways we can help our current members to reach their goals and how we can bring new ones into the mix alongside them.
CoMO members already have an incredible range of activities planned for this year's World Meningitis Day on 5 October – from signs and symptoms posters on local buses to a sponsored rugby match – and I have been compiling those into a list that other members can take inspiration from.
There is already a World Health Organisation (WHO) roadmap towards defeating meningitis by 2030, but that won't necessarily translate into the health policies we need unless people like the members of our CoMO network keep using advocacy to reach policymakers.
If you have any questions or feedback, you can email Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org.