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Collaborative leadership in voluntary organisations
Collaborative leadership in voluntary organisations

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3.1 Changing the story

In this first example, you will read about how the Hillsborough families acted together to change a widely told story of football fans’ behaviour and its consequences.

Activity 1 The football fans' story

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Read the account below of the Hillsborough memorial event. As you read, reflect on the collaborative approach adopted by the Hillsborough campaigners, and how this enabled them to influence powerful figures, including politicians, and to change the national narrative.

Thirty thousand people gathered in the streets of Liverpool on 15 April 2016 to remember the 96 fans who died at Hillsborough football stadium. There had been many vigils and memorial services over the years, but this one was different. After a 27-year long fight for justice, a jury had determined that the fans were unlawfully killed, overturning an earlier judgement of accidental killing.

From shortly after the disaster, family members and survivors joined together to support one another, but also to campaign for justice, forming the Hillsborough Family Support Group and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign. They refused to accept that their loved ones died accidentally as a result of fans’ behaviour on that day, and took on the police and the British legal system in their attempt to prove that the actions of police and others contributed to the tragedy. They were not professional campaigners or legal experts, but were determined to go on with their campaign until they reached the truth of what happened. Eventually, their cause was taken up by MPs and other influential figures, but in the meantime they sacrificed other priorities to focus on their campaign for justice.

Twenty-seven years after their relatives died at a football match shown live on TV, family members stood on the steps of St George’s Hall, Liverpool at a memorial vigil – also shown live on TV.


As I (Carol) watched the vigil live on TV, I was struck by the way in which a large group of individuals, unknown to each other before this tragic event, some unborn at the time, acted together to make a difference − for themselves, for each other, and for a principle of justice.  In a moving testament to the power of sustained collaboration in the face of continual discouragement, these families impacted UK society, and our ideas of justice. They turned around a widely told story of the violence of football fans, and replaced that story with a legal judgement that exonerated the fans from any responsibility for the tragic events in the football stadium that day.