Michael Omoniyi is the social paradox that occurs when disadvantage meets opportunity. Moving from Nigeria to Woolwich, South-East London, aged six, Mike holds close the lessons of his formative years. He attended one of the lowest-performing secondary schools in the country. He has felt anger; he has known disillusionment: unsurprising outlooks to have when your path has seemingly been pre-determined for you – as a hopeless and not very fruitful one. The paradox occurs, however, when this enforced hopelessness translates into drive. He studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Manchester University, a Masters in Political Science there too, and will soon start a PhD. He has represented the UK as a Youth Ambassador to the European Union; he has worked with the UK Youth Parliament. He also runs a Christian charity: Our God Given Mission. He changed his own narrative. He now wants to change ours.
“Information is power, the more people are informed – the less likely they are to be angry at each other and the more likely they are to be angry at the system”
Believing the solution is in understanding – Mike is working towards removing the “us versus them” mentality that occurs in a society that relies on division. Witnessing first-hand how the inaccessibility of mainstream media creates feelings of confusion, exclusion and misrepresentation: he founded The Common Sense network. Through TCS, he aims to bring true democracy to life – “for the people, by the people”. And so, TCS is pushing to redefine how we consume information. First, the goal is to create news that tells it how it is – with no jargon and no agenda: Mike labels this “straight talking news that shoots from the hips”. Then, TCS aims to ‘find the common sense between opposing ideas’. He says: “I want the BNP to hear Black Lives Matter and vice versa”. Believing that the Internet and the media polarises people, categorising us into non-interactive bubbles that resort to conflict before empathy: Mike is passionate about bringing people together. So much so that he has chosen to research balkanisation of the Internet – namely, how different ideologies clash online – within his PhD. Importantly, he cites his Christian faith as the bedrock of his motivations:
“As a Christian, the aim is not only to reconcile with God – but to reconcile with those who are different to you, to discover each other”
His ambitions could soon be a reality: setting out with a goal to raise £50,000 in 50 days – TCS reached its target, with over 500 people contributing their support. This goes to the heart of TCS: individuals collaborating to achieve a purpose higher than themselves. Through his passion for developing ideas and building businesses, Michael Omoniyi just might be well on his way to building a new society for us all. A society that is not merely tolerant – but harmonious – where platforms like TCS force us to remember that our greatest lessons are to be found nowhere else but within ourselves, and within each other.
“If all you do is reduce conflict, reduce pain, then the world’s a better place; if we just understand each other more – then, for me it’s a win”