What does your family think about you working in the third sector, Jenny?
My family are extremely proud of me. They all work in public sector jobs and so understand my desire to want to help people and communities. My brother does tease me, however. He likes to tell me on a regular basis that I am never going to earn a lot working for a charity. While that statement is subject to debate (and entirely relative), even if it is true it really doesn’t bother me. I accept that may not be the case in the future as circumstances change, but for now it really is enough to come home from a day at work and know that my 9-5 slog has been spent doing something important.
I think my family see me with rose-tinted glasses. I have always done well academically, so I think they had this image of me going on to work in the private sector, following in the footsteps of my aunties and uncles, managing people and being very busy and important. But it’s that very stereotype – that working in charity is the complete opposite – which Charityworks is trying to crack. I’ve heard us called “social leaders of the future” many times, and while that doesn’t put me under pressure at all (!), why can’t I be busy and important in the third sector?
What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced so far in your corporate role?
The biggest challenge for me has been ensuring that I stay connected to the cause of my organisation. I work for this wonderful charity but, as much as I hate to admit it, that can sometimes be forgotten when working in head office, especially in a finance-type role where there is little need to actually go out and meet the service users/community of people I am there to support. I chose to work in charity because I wanted to, to put it simply, do good, and let that good drive me forward. Some days I need to remind myself that I am still doing good, but I think that’s only natural. In actual fact one of the biggest things I have realised during my time here is how crucial it is to have a strong back office function, in order to effectively and efficiently support the front-line work.
It didn’t settle right with me, however, to just accept that fact and carry out with the day job. I took part in an event, signed up to volunteer at an event and visited the hospices. More importantly, I wrote my impact research project on a strategy to improve our engagement with statutory stakeholders, and how to connect them to our cause. I am now in the process of implementing that strategy with my team, and once up and running I can imagine that will open up the channels of communication to and from the statutory team, and connect us to both service users and other teams across the organisation.
How do you think working with the 5Cs as values has impacted on your development as a future leader? Do you see them at work at Acorns?
I can definitely see the 5Cs at work in my organisation. Acorns strategic goals are to expand and improve care services, enable growth, champion the cause and build resilience. That means they are connecting across organisations and sectors to encourage others to put the children at the forefront of their priorities. They are curious and conscious of the uncertainty of the external environment and doing their best to shelter the children from that storm, and they are challenging themselves and changing the way they approach things in order to reach as many children and families who need their support as possible.
Those 5Cs work as much on an organisational basis as they do on an individual basis. It’s not always easy to keep them on the mind, but whenever I get a chance to have a think about them I find it really useful. They seem to perfectly embody the qualities of anyone who wants to work in this sector, yet also push that person to seek continual improvement. Whenever I remember to think of them it gives me motivation to keep striving.
Can you think of a moment where you knew your decision to persue a socially minded career in the non-profit sector was the right one?
Without meaning to skimp this question, I cannot think of one particular moment where I knew I had made the right decision, but can think of how I felt after a series of collective moments – each Charityworks conference and listening to the speakers. After each of these conferences my headspace was completely taken over. While I didn’t always agree with everything that was being said (though more often than not was completely inspired and wished I could express myself and my values/beliefs in that way), just sitting there and listening to these people who were out there, in the thick of it, doing what they were doing was pretty amazing. When else would I have had the chance, as a 22-year-old graduate, to experience such a group of minds coming together? It was after those moments that I realised I wanted to be one of those people, championing the cause and inspiring others to do the same.