Jane Tewson

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Jane Tewson CBE (born 9 January 1958) is a British charity worker and the originator of several innovative charitable (non-profit) organisations and ideas for community strengthening, notably in the UK and Australia. She believes in making charity "active, emotional, involving and fun", by building connections between people of different backgrounds, cultures, wealth, and social positions.[citation needed] Her approach argues for "people getting directly involved and giving themselves.....", rather than giving money for charitable works.[citation needed] This "embraces human connection as a vital part of social change".[citation needed]

Background in the UK[edit]

She is the daughter of Edward Tewson and Jocelyn (née Johnston), a doctor in rural South East England. With serious dyslexia she left Lord Williams's Grammar School in Thame without qualifications, but later attended lectures at Oxford while working as a cleaner in the city.[1]

In 1981, aged 23, she founded Charity Projects in London, with funding from Lord (Tim) Bell and numerous other donations. Its initial focus was tackling homelessness in Soho.

The highly successful Comic Relief concept emerged in 1985, combining 'Red Nose Day' with a BBC TV telethon featuring Britain's top entertainers and comedians. Tewson had worked in a refugee camp in Sudan in 1985, where she was pronounced clinically dead after contracting cerebral malaria.[1] She recounts the sensation of looking down on her own body and but then returning to it and surviving – there were no drugs left in the camp. Her response to the African famine, Comic Relief was launched on Christmas Day 1985 from the refugee camp in Safawa, Sudan. By 2005 Comic Relief it had raised £337 million for famine relief and community development, notably for Africa and disadvantaged areas of the UK. Comic Relief distributes much of its aid through partner organisations.


In 2000, she relocated from South-East England to Melbourne, Australia, when her husband Charles Lane was appointed director of project funding at the Myer Foundation and then the Dept. of Victorian Communities. At the time she was suffering from ovarian cancer but survived after operations in Melbourne.

Tewson resides in an eastern suburb of Melbourne and is the mother of two children. She works on some inner city Melbourne projects, and elsewhere, through Igniting Change (formerly Pilotlight Australia). For example, in 2005, Igniting Change helped take forward a concept begun in East London, We Are What We Do, which asks people to make small voluntary actions promoting goodwill and sustainability. The book "Change the World for Ten Bucks" was published (price, $10, 340,000 copies sold), and German and British editions have also been released. The Dying to Know project and book (2009, UK 2010, 55,000 copies sold) is about coming to terms with death, and negotiating grief.

Organisations and concepts[edit]

She has set up the following organisations:

And concepts she pioneered include:

  • Comic Relief (1985). Tewson left to form Pilotlight in 1995.
  • Timebank (1999). Otherwise known as ONE20, encourages people from all walks of life to give time to community projects, with beneficiaries 'passing on' a similar dedication of time and effort to others. TimeBank has featured on BBC TV several times.
  • The Corporate Responsibility Index in Australia, that benchmarks companies against their corporate responsibility performance.
  • Melbourne Cares – promoting corporate support to disadvantaged people.[dead link]
  • Charitable Projects ran the Holborn Great Investment Race – which challenged investment companies in the City of London to accrue maximum returns (within ethical guidelines) on 'seed money' donated by Prudential Holborn Trust. In two years, over £1.5 million was raised and donated to charity.
  • Feet First for Homeless People saw central London commuters walking home in the evening, and donate the money saved in fares to help young homeless people living in the West End. This raised £100,000 in four weeks.
  • Pilotlight undertook further unconventional activities like Real Deal, which brought together homeless and disadvantaged young people with key policy-makers to speak about drugs, health, education and so-on. A "closed doors" workshop took place between young people and Cabinet Ministers at 11 Downing Street.
  • With her husband, Tewson organised Whose land?, which funded exchange visits between East African Maasai pastoralists and Australian Aborigine communities, both fighting to regain land rights. In October 1999, Pilotlight also helped facilitate an historic meeting between a senior delegation of Aboriginal Australians and Her Majesty the Queen.


  • In 1999 she received a CBE from HM Queen Elizabeth II for her foundational work with Charity Projects and other projects. In accepting, Tewson said: "It's odd for me to receive this honour as I never see myself as anything special. I'm just lucky to be in touch with crucial issues and to work with exceptional and inspiring people who actually tackle and experience those issues on the ground."
  • In March 2000, she was named by The Times newspaper as one of the top ten innovators of the 1990s in the UK.
  • In 2007 she was named Social Entrepreneur of the year for VIC and TAS, by Ernst and Young.
  • Beacon Awards Winners 2010, Philanthropy Advocate Award, UK[2]
  • Among numerous other roles, she has been Trustee of The Media Trust, The Camelot Foundation, Oxfam, and she served on the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Committee.
  • She sits on the boards of the Reichstein Foundation and the St James Ethics Centre.


External links[edit]