Imagine if you’d just finished school, or graduated and you wanted to do something you were passionate about while developing your skills? But you din’t know what you wanted, you had imposter syndrome about whether you were good enough to help others?
You weren’t sure whether you wanted to be behind the scenes, influencing the direction of an organisation, on the frontline impacting people’s lives or even starting your own venture. You didn’t know whether you wanted to work for one organisation or have more of a portfolio career advising different organisations.
You also wanted to develop a network of people and you also wanted the freedom to campaign and mobilise people around common causes that you might not have in your workplace. You wanted all of those things, but also wanted to commit meaningful time to each.
That’s why I love Year Here’s model and to have one of their graduates in our team. Because they enable people to be able to experiment with all of these experiences I just mentioned. Whether it’s getting frontline insight as a case worker in a homeless hotel, cutting edge training with a mentor, leadership development, network, developing a project which brings that experience to develop a creative venture that makes a direct impact on people’s lives, like BirdSong or Settle and being able to pitch the project to an incubator.
When I graduated, I had all of those thoughts in my head. Strangely, I postgraduated from my Masters I had started in Paris that I finished in Barcelona. I worked on the Costa del Sol as a waiter then for Eurostar as a call centre adviser. When I went back to the UK, I got a temporary job working as a national programme to support asylum seekers who were dispersed anywhere from Ashford to Walsall. I would go out to visit asylum seekers to understand their needs, broker support for them, be it from the GP to school to charities, liaise with their lawyers, MP offices or the Home Office, or landlords.
I then went to work for various think tanks, NLGN, Demos and the Young Foundation, where I went out “into to the field” to immerse myself into the lives of different people across the country, be it dairy farmers to identify unmet rural needs, to commuters on the tube on how we can create better public conversations, via graduates on what skills they wanted to develop in the future workplace. I discovered different types of research methods, from helping people tell their stories on their first political memory to what people wanted to see in 2020 in Glasgow.
But I wanted to be an activist too, not just an observer. So I got involved in co-founding Compass’ very first youth wing, helping & developing creative campaigns, involving people in democratic ways and bringing in people with different skills — from rapping to drama. And this gave me the spark to get involved at the start of European Alternatives helping design and run festivals, turning a network into a cooperative and leading projects.
All of these experiences I developed over time. I took up opportunities and created them, but I’d have loved to go on a Year Here placement.
Imagine what a similar placement would be where the projects were in the same local area? What frontline placements would you provide people? What organisations would you connect the graduates to? Who would be their local mentors? How would you root them in your neighbourhoods?
Imagine if you could do that while still at school? Or as a sabbatical?
We’ve developed an associate model at Camden where people are members of our Strategy & Change service but go and lead different programmes, embedded in services so that our team is constantly rooted in frontline experience. They have skin in the game in feeling ownership over the change, develop an alumni network of strategy & changemakers and share learning between the programmes.
What would be your ideal graduate programme? What did you want to do when you left school or university? What would you do if you could go on a sabbatical?
On a more practical note, who’d be up for a job swap? Shadow me and my team, actively taking part in work, shaping what we do, influencing on the ground. Or I or someone in my team shadows you? Challenge on!