In October 2015 I began my third posting in the Fast Stream, and my first outside of the Civil Service, at Step Up To Serve; the charity coordinating the #iwill campaign.
I was a little unsure what to expect as, having joined the Fast Stream straight from university, the majority of my working experiences were within the Civil Service. However, after spending my previous year in the largest two government departments (DWP and HMRC), I was excited to join an organisation of just 11 people, and develop my understanding of the third sector and the challenges involved in running a small organisation.
Throughout my six months at the #iwill campaign, I was also able to take on many varied roles, including writing the campaign’s 2015 Annual Review, providing guidance and briefing to senior stakeholders and Trustees, managing pledges, and developing internal processes and procedures. I met these challenges with the support of an incredibly passionate team who helped me to understand how to build societal change from outside of government. This is at the core of #iwill, as the campaign aims to empower 50% more young people to engage in social action by 2020, through working with over 500 cross-sector, UK-wide partners.
The experiences I had on secondment will enable me to be a more effective civil servant in three ways. Firstly, I learnt a lot about working in a small team trying to achieve large-scale societal change, in particular about the necessity to develop a broad coalition of support on a cross-sector, collaborative basis. Secondly, the knowledge I have gained about not only the youth sector, but the third sector as a whole, has encouraged me to develop better policy by ensuring that proactive efforts are made to involve specialist and experienced voices outside of government. Finally, I will return to the Civil Service with lessons learned from working in an organisation of just 11 people. I learnt about how to get the most out of a small team, by pursuing an adaptive and flexible approach to management, emphasising learning and development, and supporting resilience. I also learnt about the limits of a small team, and the need for early and sustained prioritisation.
Overall, my experience with the #iwill campaign team at Step Up To Serve was transformational, particularly with regards to my knowledge of delivering large-scale, societal change, and my understanding of a sector very different to the civil service.