LONDON — Former Portland Communications execs Hannah Barlow and Gosia Brzezinska have launched an advisory firm to support “changemaking” organisations tackling urgent problems with communications, campaigns and partnerships.

BB Partners is billed as a women-led communications advisory committed to shaking up the “bloated and bureaucratic” agency world by spending more time with clients and working with organisations and companies tackling urgent issues, in the UK and globally.

The firm’s launch clients including Gates-backed global NGO, Malaria No More UK; international sustainable furniture start-up, Tylko; leading political think tank More in Common; investment advisor firm White Oak Global Advisors; and Crowdfunder UK, an online crowdfunding platform.

Brzezinska was an associate director at Portland from 2013 to 2018 before joining Freuds in the same role. She told PRovoke Media: “At Portland, we quickly connected on our work ethic, our approach to comms and how to manage people, and we always joked that maybe one day we would start something. That joke is now reality.”

She added: “From speeding up malaria’s end to people-powering grassroots campaigns around the world, we’ve supported brilliant leaders to deliver change. Our clients navigate difficult and complex frameworks of Sustainable Development Goals, B Corp and other sustainability and ‘for good’ metrics. We want to help them deliver on those but most importantly ensure that they achieve greater impact across their priority areas.”

Barlow worked at Portland from 2014-2017, before founding The Development Collective, working with NGOs and other organisations. She told PRovoke Media: “We’re very values-led and that’s stuck with us throughout our careers; working with changemakers is at the heart of everything we’re doing.”

BB Partners launches with a core team of five, with plans to double headcount by June 2021. Barlow said the firm would offer a hybrid model: “Once agencies get beyond a certain size they often offer a cookie-cutter standard, versus individual freelancers who can get embedded with clients. Our hybrid can provide more value by creating expert teams for clients, especially as a lot of people are looking for something different as budgets are scrutinised and reworked.”

The duo have also set up a senior global council with experts from the worlds of politics, philanthropy and media, including former MP Heidi Allen; Moky Makura, CEO of Africa No Filter; David Goldberg, CEO of Founders Pledge; and journalist and author Janet Mbugua. Members of the council will provide advice to clients and expand the agency’s network.

Brzezinska said: “From the beginning, we wanted to create a council and bring new voices to shake up the industry. It’s extremely diverse and all the council members have experience of changing the world in their respective sectors, from philanthropy, to running an NGO on the ground, to storymaking and engaging communities, to policy making.”