Our Projects Coordinator, Philippa, first found Findacure through CharityWorks, a leadership development graduate programme which focuses on the 5 C’s: Conscious, Curious, Challenged, Connected and Change. This paid, 12-month talent programme teaches graduates about the different aspects of the charity sector, ranging from finance and innovation to co-creation and more. Graduates meet every month for either a learning session focused on a specific topic or a conference that brings big voices in the sector together to focus on a key theme in the industry. Graduates are given a mentor and establish a peer coaching pair to improve their coaching skills on the programme. To pass, graduates must complete a piece of impact research that focuses on a key question or issue at their placement charity.
In this week’s blog, Philippa takes us through what she learnt by completing this 12-month programme. She highlights how her learnings related to the 5 C’s of the CharityWorks programme.
One of my favourite things about the programme and the learning sessions was how conscious they made me of the way in which the charity sector operates. I learned the key challenges the sector has faced as well as the opportunities there are going forward. In our first session, we entered into debates on key questions, such as whether charities can survive reputational damage and how much charities should really be spending on overhead and staff costs. It was interesting to be made aware of new and different perspectives and understand that the nonprofit sector is dynamic and has to be ever adaptable to new trends, debates and contexts.
In the learning sessions, I enjoyed putting ideas, such as innovation, into practice through activities and presentations. We designed solutions to shopping to make it more accessible and fit a design brief. The skills I learnt were bitesize, but have stuck with me and have been transferable to my work today.
The programme fed my curiosity to not only be more informed about the charity sector, but also to be more informed about the different ways in which change can, and has, been achieved. The conferences were great, as they showcased a wide range of speakers from across the charity spectrum who have done amazing and inspiring work. One talk that really stuck with me was at the Power of Community conference in February 2020. It was given by Kajal Odedra, the Executive Director of Change.org.
Kajal gave a presentation on how Change.org had helped Richard Ratcliffe in his ongoing battle to free his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, from imprisonment in Iran. The petition has over 3 million signatures and has really helped Richard gain awareness for his plight. She spoke of the importance of empowering those with lived experience as a key practice for building and strengthening communities, and how it is key that we give people a seat at the table for decisions and programmes that matter to them.
The group also heard from the Scouting Association, which I loved being a former scout myself! It was interesting to hear how the Scouting movement is changing to stay relevant to the context of today and keep young people engaged and committed. The whole session inspired me to reflect on my own perspective on how communities should be strengthened. I firmly believe that communities should be built by the people they exist for- an invaluable learning for my work at Findacure.
One of the most challenging aspects of the programme for me was the impact research we had to carry out as part of our fellowship. I decided to focus my research on how Findacure can increase outreach to rare disease patients to encourage engagement at an earlier stage. I based a lot of my research off informal phone interviews with individuals in the community who already work on achieving engagement at an earlier stage in the hopes that their practice could inform ours.
I found the research challenging, as the rare disease world is fairly small and it can be difficult to gather a large body of evidence, research and facts to back up any claims or inform arguments; something I needed in order to make my piece valid and achieve a high score. Because of this, I found it difficult to manage both the demands of the research and the reality of the resources I had available to me. I did, however, choose to challenge myself by presenting my research as a recorded presentation using a presentation and voice over. This was out of my comfort zone, as I hadn’t presented for a few years!
After finishing the research, it was good to reflect on what I had done and what I could do better. I know now that if I have to do something like that again, I am in a better position for it having learnt from the challenge.
A definite high of the scheme was all the amazing people I was able to meet and the friends that I have made. Not only did I get to become part of team Findacure, but I also got to meet some lovely people on the graduate scheme itself. At the learning sessions and conferences, it was a great feeling to be in a room with a group of people who were all likeminded and eager to learn and connect. Not to mention that the sessions and conferences were always continued afterwards at the pub in Islington- back when we could actually go to the pub!
Thinking about it now makes me nostalgic for the times when we could go out and meet new people. However, the group is great at keeping the communication going. We have regular calls over zoom, so we can all keep up to date with each other’s lives and careers. I’m even part of an alumni group and keep in regular contact with my pals from the programme. I am looking forward to the next time we can all meet up again.
When I look back at who I was when I began the programme and compare it to who I am now, I can really see the big change I and my confidence went through. For me, being accepted onto the programme was a big boost, as I had been waiting to apply for a while. This meant that I was a little saddened when everything inevitably went online due to Covid-19, but I still managed to adapt to that as well.
Being on the programme cemented my passion for working in the non-profit sector and gave me an insight into how my future and the sector might change in the coming years. I have definitely grown in confidence and have recently been applying to more volunteering opportunities in order to grow myself and my experience even more. Being on the programme has encouraged me to always be looking for new opportunities and connections and I think it is great that we still encourage each other to change our perspectives and behaviours through regular catchups and zoom advocacy groups and discussions.
Overall, the CharityWorks programme taught me that the non-profit sector is dynamic, clever and never stands still. It has inspired me to be the same in my life, career and personal development.