Working Like Jo

22/09/2017 16:45 BST | Updated 22/09/2017 16:46 BST
Matt Dunham/AP

In June last year thousands of people gathered in Trafalgar Square to remember the murdered MP Jo Cox. Many of them held placards promising to 'Love Like Jo'. The Jo I was privileged to know exuded love - towards her kids, her husband Brendan, her friends and countless others she came in contact with on a daily basis.

Love mattered to Jo. It wasn't just a warm feeling, it was a way of living and the basis for her approach to her work. Jo knew how to love but, believe me, she also knew how to work.

She was passionate about action. About doing things, not just talking about them. About actions that produced results - tangible, measurable results. And she was always ready to be held accountable for the work she initiated and what it had achieved.

So when the Jo Cox Foundation was set-up a year ago, we committed ourselves to 'Work Like Jo'. To continue much of the work she had already started and, wherever possible, bring it to fruition. We - a small group of Jo's friends and others inspired by her example - believed it was the best way to honour her memory.

The driving force behind our work over the past twelve months has been the goodwill and the commitment from so many to be part of creating a positive, effective legacy for Jo.

From the very start we were blessed with offers of support from hundreds of thousands of people across the UK and around the world - from Barack Obama calling the family to offer his condolences and support through to the 50,000 generous donors to the Jo Cox Fund that raised almost £2 million. The lion's share of that money went straight to the causes she believed in - strengthening communities with the Royal Voluntary Service, fighting hatred with Hope Not Hate and supporting life-saving humanitarian work in Syria with the White Helmets. With the remaining money we set up a small foundation to drive forward work on the other issues that Jo cared about.

A year on we can now begin to take stock.

The kind of things Jo worked on, from tackling loneliness to projecting civilians in conflict zones, will always be work in progress. They are difficult issues that don't have easy solutions. That's exactly why she wanted to take them on. But just because there's no obvious endgame, it doesn't mean we can't measure the progress that has been made.

I think that were she here today, looking back over the past year, Jo be amazed at how much all the goodwill and hard work has generated. Not because of what has been done in her name - she'd have been bemused by the attention - but delighted that so many people across the UK and around the world are picking up where she left off and driving forward change in practical ways.

This summer, I saw first-hand the coming together of communities across the country to celebrate, just as Jo did, that we have more in common than that which divides us. At the crack of dawn on the first anniversary of Jo's murder, I was standing in the corner of the school gym in Upper Batley High School surrounded by the chatter of students excitedly eating cake and preparing for their first appearance on live TV.

'The Great Get Together' marked the anniversary with an uplifting celebration of everything our country and communities hold in common, with a massive national picnic. Hundreds of thousands of people organised an event in their neighbourhood, determined to bring communities closer together and celebrate all that we have in common.

The same spirit has been evident across a range of issues Jo championed.

Female leadership in public life: We've seen women inspired by Jo to take huge steps into public life. Two MPs have been elected following their participation in the Jo Cox Women in Leadership Programme, with many more now holding Council seats. Meanwhile our partnership with Campaign Bootcamp has seen young women gain the critical skills and confidence to take their campaigning to the next levels on issues as diverse as domestic violence and BME rights.

Overseas action: Her all-important international interests have been kept alive with the publication of her report 'The Cost of Doing Nothing', laying out the risks of inaction by international actors and Governments in the face of atrocities, crimes against humanity and genocide. Meanwhile the money raised for the heroic White Helmets has funded eight ambulances and supported the families of over 100 White Helmets volunteers killed or injured in the line of duty in Syria.

Loneliness: The Jo Cox Loneliness Commission, under the crossbench parliamentary leadership of two close friends and colleagues of Jo, Seema Kennedy MP and Rachel Reeves MP, has been telling the story of loneliness and social isolation in all its forms across the UK. From carers to children and men to those with disabilities. We look forward to reporting the Commission's conclusions at the end of the year.

We'd rather not be doing this. We'd rather Jo was still with us carrying on this work herself. But that choice was taken from us.

As we enter our second year we remain as committed as ever to working like Jo. And at least once a day the Foundation's small staff team whoop as another email or tweet comes in detailing the ways in which people up and down the country are celebrating her life and example in inspiring practical ways. To each and every one of them we say thank you, and Jo would have been proud of you.