Saba is a first-generation University graduate from a British-Pakistani background with proud blue-collar parents. She has been active and involved in the third sector since she was 13 years old, motivated by the prospect of changing local community frameworks – funding for youth centres and young people-oriented initiatives as she considers herself a product of her youth centre, which guided her through many social challenges. Saba has been involved with her local borough (Camden, London) Youth Council from 2014-2018), and was a Trustee for Camden Young Foundation. Saba’s ventures have shaped her formative teenage years, giving her many transferable skills. Helping to garner and elevate my objectives and ambitions around impactful and proactive community organising and policy implementation, she hopes to continue to pursue a long-term career.

As soon as Francine Busby walked into the room, I whispered over to the Patchworker to my right, “Now that’s a Democrat.” Fittingly dressed in blue with a big smile, her demeanour was very warm and confident from the outset. The Masterclass fulfilled my already high expectations as it was an intimate look into the hectic challenges that arrive when on the demanding and sometimes vicious path of a campaign trail. When we think of ‘Campaign Trail’ in the UK, we think of community halls filled with locals demanding their bin collections happen on time. But in America, the Campaign Trail is an opportunity to showcase one’s showmanship and unwavering patriotism – speeches to roaring crowds, a game of who can rile them up the most. I’d like to think Francine did an excellent job riling us up perfectly, though – we were all smiling and hyped up on a hopefulness she emanated. 

I thought I already went into the Masterclass with a basis of understanding American politics. Still, Francine’s expertise is unmatched – she explained very thoroughly and with enthusiasm what to expect in Politics as a candidate and an organiser – especially as a woman or even an outsider to the atypical demographic in politics and how to deal with it as well as her own stories that shed insight into the practical, personal and logistical expectations of day-to-day in the ever-changing landscape of political organising. Having returned from a year abroad in the rural Appalachian mountains of South West Virginia in May 2022, I was lucky enough to get a memorable insight into how polarised and charged the political sphere is there. American citizens are disenfranchised as ever, and the political system has been questioned. America is the place to be whether that is true or not can be contested, but what cannot be contested is Francine’s zeal and vigour for democratic politics.

The United States is renowned for having an incredibly reactive and, at times, explosive political world. As an outsider for a year abroad in the United States, I was lucky enough to witness firsthand instead of relying on hyperbolic Netflix depictions such as House of Cards. After going door-knocking for the South West Virginia Democrats, I saw how, in one of the most deprived, poorest areas of the United States, nestled within the Appalachian mountains, a Democrat spirit still intact. Even in a place that would be considered in the media as very ‘backward’ due to its long-standing history of racism, social division, unemployment and issues of substance/alcohol abuse, there were still people interested in participating in politics. In the constant media flurry of narratives of bi-partisan politics and extreme subcultures emerging, I think it is very easy to often overestimate the grip of division. It was a refreshing and humbling experience to find even in the most adverse areas of America, there is still resilience in spirit. Francine’s explanation, as well as an embodiment of this spirit, was wonderful to bask in. 

One of my most memorable and favourite memories of the Masterclass was Francine sharing her tips on surviving the battery politics can deliver – it was funny and personable. There was also a lived understanding shared that the experience of women is very different to the experience of men in politics, thus meaning that being held to different expectations should not only be expected but embraced. Francine’s honest and steadfast re-iteration of being proactive and confident in your abilities resonated with everyone in the room as we continue to embark on our journeys as young people trying to change the world we see around us, as puzzling and troubled as it can seem.

~ Saba Asif, 2023 Masterclass Programme Participant