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Started in Birmingham in May 2018, Permission to Smile’s campaign profile has been high and very warmly received.

In Birmingham, 158 partner organisations actively backed the campaign (see below for list) and some 850 large banners were put up around the city.

There is growing evidence that the campaign started to ‘move the dial’. In a survey, 75% of parents at school gates with a banner said they’d been personally encouraged to smile and greet more and 96% felt a campaign to increase friendliness was “necessary”.

Some of the comments included:

A bit more banter at the school gate. Others are making an effort to be more friendly.

I think the school’s got a lot more sociable since the banners went up.

When I saw the banner, I thought it’s time someone does something about this. Then another mum said, I’m now trying to learn a name every day.

To be honest, I never used to smile with my eyes, but seeing the banner made me decide to really go for it!

Parents say hello to me and never used to

Other messages and comments received by the campaign include:

This is wonderful. I love it and I have now been making eye contact with people

I’ve seen so many banners around and it’s definitely made me think about how I approach people generally

Seeing one of the banners in Colmore Row made me smile all the way home

I was in Birmingham today and saw loads of your posters, a quick google search just revealed to me the most magnificent and wonderful campaign! How empowering and inspiring! I love love love it!

The campaign for 2018-20 Birmingham was steered by a core group, comprising:

Clare Beavan, foundation manager of DWF; Stephanie Bloxham, health business unit coordinator at Birmingham Voluntary Services Council; Michael Butler, professor of Organisational Analysis and Development, Aston Business School; Indi Deol, founding director of DESIblitz; Sam German, director of PocZero Ltd; Amelia Ladbrook, chair of Birmingham Civic Society and Nick Venning, chairman of Thrive Brum, and Martin Graham, the initiator and coordinator of the Permission to Smile campaign.

Special thanks to the Birmingham Civic Society and BCU’s School of Media for their excellent partnership in planning and mounting the campaign, and to Birmingham City Council for their support, through all departments, helping the campaign to gain and maintain a high profile.

Also, thanks to Hollywood Monster for their help with the banners, and to the many schools, churches, other faith centres, Birmingham Cathedral, strategic organisations, community centres, GP surgeries, businesses, charities and local residents who have helped make the campaign such a success.

Having started in Birmingham, the campaign is being taken forward and coordinated for wider application by Hope Together on behalf of a wide partnership. Hope Together exists particularly to help the UK’s churches to be more outward-looking and to express their faith by serving their neighbourhoods in a variety of practical ways. Boosting community spirit, as part of a wide partnership, is one of them.

Local authorities in particular may be interested in the case study on Permission to Smile, to be found on the Local Government Association website – see

Campaign support

I have been greatly impressed with the imagination, hard work and determination of the Permission to Smile campaign team in gathering a huge partnership and in gaining a high profile across the city for this important message.  The campaign has been an amazing success.

Cllr Ian Ward, Leader (2017-23), Birmingham City Council

Permission to Smile has helped Birmingham to become a brighter, more self-confident city, with local people empowered to make a difference where they live – an excellent initiative, which deserves our backing

Tim Andrews, co-founder and Chairman, Love Brum

Permission to Smile is an outstanding social enterprise working in partnership with Birmingham Civic Society. Within a short space of time it has built a highly visible brand by placing banners with an eye-catching logo in strategic locations across Birmingham. Further, through targeted activities, Permission to Smile has high impact in schools and local communities. These achievements can only come about through effective inclusive leadership. I have no hesitation in recommending Permission to Smile.

Michael Butler, Professor of Organisational Analysis and Development, Aston Business School

Supportive and collaborative society is greatly needed and will do us all a power of good. But it won’t just happen – it needs us all to help make it happen

Paul Faulkner, Chief Executive, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce

Permission to Smile’ is a key new campaign to galvanise more citizen contact and shared activity to help meet the pressing needs around us. This has to be a big part of the answer to the big challenges we face in Birmingham

Cllr Tristan Chatfield, formerly Cabinet Member, BCC

Permission to Smile. It shouldn’t be needed but it is. It should be straightforward and if we all play our own small part, it will be. This is a people-powered initiative for a simple but really important outcome. From small acts of connection can grow real social benefits. Support this initiative with a smile. Break the ice and watch for communities that start connecting

Professor David Morris, director, Centre for Citizenship and Community.

Permission to Smile is a great way to encourage people to make a positive impact in their neighbourhoods through easy, friendly actions that bring people together. The beauty of this initiative is its simplicity – it proves that creating social good doesn’t have to be a complicated process, and that anyone can get involved and make a difference

Brian Carr, Chief Executive, Birmingham Voluntary Services Council


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