Can’t Buy My Silence is a global campaign committed to ending the misuse of non-disclosure agreements.
We spoke to Can’t Buy My Silence’s co-founder Zelda Perkins on the campaign, how her direct experience adds to her determination and how Breakthrough’s support has made a difference. Can’t Buy My Silence is part of the Breakthrough Accelerator programme 2023.
Can you tell us about your campaign group and the change it exists to make?
Can’t Buy My Silence is a campaign to stop the misuse of non-disclosure agreements, which was born out of my personal experience, having signed a nondisclosure agreement with Harvey Weinstein in 1998 and breaking it in 2017. I then met Professor Julie MacFarlane, who despite not having signed one herself found her life directly legally impacted by her colleague having signed one. And so Can’t Buy My Silence was born because we were both aware of the huge number of victims of gagging orders and the enormous, unseen repercussions of signing an NDA.
What prompted you to form Can’t Buy My Silence?
Boris Johnson getting into Downing Street. I had been very lucky, within a year of breaking my NDA, I had sat in front of two select committees, a government consultation, a regulator’s consultation, and Theresa May had vowed to outlaw the use of abusive NDAs. And then Boris got into power and I was back at square one and realised I was going to have to start a public-facing campaign if I wanted to make sure what had happened to me was never going to happen to anyone else again.
Can you tell us about where you are in your campaign journey?
I’d like to say that we were two-thirds of our way through the campaign. We’ve changed some legislation here in the UK, we’ve changed some in Canada and Ireland, and been part of making change in the US, but it’s really important that we push really hard in this final third to make sure we get broader legislative change, especially in the UK. We’ve been very fortunate with the amount of movement we’ve had in two years. We’ve definitely crossed a Rubicon.
If it wasn’t personal, I would have given up a long time ago.”
Was there ever any hesitancy on your part to launch a public campaign on an issue you had direct experience with?
In a way, I’m kind of an accidental campaigner. Without realising it, I’d been campaigning from the moment that I broke my NDA and because of the profile of the Harvey Weinstein case, I was already publicly exposed. So anything I could do to move away from being defined as a “Weinstein victim” was a positive step and becoming an accidental activist helped me to lose that descriptor. It wasn’t something I planned out but it was incredibly important and pleasurable to turn a negative into a positive in that way – I was no longer a victim, I was a campaigner.
How do you think having direct experience of the issue helps your campaign efforts?
It’s what keeps me going when I think I can’t keep going. I think if it wasn’t personal, I would have given up a long time ago.
What hurdles have you faced as a direct-experience campaigner?
I think because of my own experiences, I find it really frustrating not to be able to wave a magic wand to help all of the vulnerable people whose lives have been heavily impacted by NDAs, but I think that experience probably adds to my determination to keep going.
The support that Breakthrough has given me has been transformational on a personal, emotional, and practical level.”
Since receiving Accelerator support from Breakthrough, what has changed?
It does what it says on the tin. Our campaign has definitely accelerated. I genuinely couldn’t have made it through the last two years without the support of Breakthrough. From giving me the space to moan when I need to or drafting letters on my behalf to stop my ever-expanding to-do list from growing even more, the support that Breakthrough has given me has been transformational on a personal, emotional, and practical level.
What would you say to other direct-experience campaigners worried there’s not support out there?
It can be extremely challenging running a successful campaign on your own and you can only get so far without an understanding of the processes and systems that you’re fighting and how they work. The added layer of strategy and political knowledge that an organisation like Breakthrough provides is invaluable to a successful campaign.
What would you like to have achieved by the end of the Accelerator programme?
Legislative and regulatory change. And we’re well on our way – which we couldn’t have done without Breakthrough.
Read more about Can’t Buy My Silence and support their campaigning efforts at: https://www.cantbuymysilence.com/
Campaigns we are currently supporting through our programmes cover a wide range of issues from discrimination and harassment in the workplace, social housing, workers rights in the gig economy, and supporting young people during challenging times.