Our Stronger Communities Officer Ella describes her Kickstart experience and the importance of an understanding workplace.
My journey at the Jo Cox Foundation began with the help of a government initiative for 16-24-year-olds who were unemployed during the pandemic, called Kickstart. When the pandemic began, I was made unemployed like so many others across the country. I spent the duration of the lockdowns searching for a job, a difficult task at the best of times. It soon became apparent that as so many others had lost their jobs due to the pandemic, the candidate pool had increased in size dramatically and it was an employers game.
During this period, I signed up for Universal Credit and was provided with a work coach with whom I had regular check-ins. They helped me scout out interesting jobs that I was qualified for and supported me through numerous interviews until I eventually came across an opportunity on the Jo Cox Foundation’s careers page as a Stronger Communities Assistant. Not only was I excited by the prospect of working for an organisation like the Jo Cox Foundation, I was also grateful to see the organisation hiring for Kickstart positions since they are such a useful career opportunity for many young people.
After following the necessary Kickstart application process, I was over the moon to be offered an interview and subsequently a role as the Stronger Communities Assistant at the Jo Cox Foundation. Getting this role after job hunting for over a year of the pandemic felt like a huge weight off my shoulders, especially as the work of the Foundation aligns directly with my own interests and values.
Alongside my role at the Jo Cox Foundation, I had 6 months of learning and personal development training with Koreo who had partnered with Kickstart. Over the 6 month period, they provided learning opportunities that supported my role and entering the civil society workspace. In virtual seminars, which often had over a hundred Kickstarters across the country attending, they provided tools which enabled me to develop practical skills which have helped me on a day-to-day level as the Stronger Communities Assistant, along with transferable skills which will aid me in my career development. These ranged from understanding how I like to work, the communication styles I find most practical and accessible, peer coaching, reflective practices, employability skills and coaching.
As this position at the Jo Cox Foundation was my first experience working as part of a team in an office environment, developing these skills has proved useful in making sure it was an easy transition. In fact, a few weeks after I completed this learning experience, the whole team at JCF created a ‘User Manual’ document, open to all to add to, to help us understand how each team member likes to work. It’s a fantastic exercise to ensure that you can work with your colleagues in the best possible way!
Alongside this personal development opportunity from Koreo, working at the Jo Cox Foundation has allowed me to expand my understanding of the important work the charity sector does and the huge role it plays in harnessing the power of community action. While at the Foundation, I have split my time working in two teams. Firstly, the Connection Coalition, a network for organisations across the country to work collectively to ensure that communities have the ability to build and strengthen social relationships. This has been such a wonderful experience, particularly in opening my eyes to the importance of the individuals behind community action. It is so important for them to have a space where they can discuss their achievements and challenges and turn to others for support and collaboration. Through this work, I’ve met some amazing individuals doing important and inspiring work to help tackle loneliness up and down the country.
The other side of my work at the Foundation has been working on our national campaign, the Great Get Together. This has been an amazing opportunity to see the level of commitment that thousands of people across the country have towards bridging divides within their communities and harnessing the power of their community to build positive spaces where Jo’s More In Common message is celebrated. My role varied from interacting directly with organisers and attendees, to rallying support from well-known names and MPs in Westminster. I was also engaging with our audience through our fortnightly newsletter, encouraging them to get involved through organising or attending an event. It has been wonderful to hear all the amazing stories of new connections made over the last two summer campaigns. I’m certain the impact of the Great Get Together will only increase year after year.
Working with the team at the Jo Cox Foundation has really highlighted the importance of an understanding workplace. A fundamental element of the way we all work together at the Foundation is that we understand that everyone has their own way of working and times of the day when they are at their most productive. When we came together as a team to produce our ‘how we work’ cards, I and other members of the team really felt seen and acknowledged, and a sense of trust and respect was built within the team that each individual’s way of working would be respected as much as possible. I think this is such an important exercise to do with any team, especially a team who mostly works remotely as it allows us all to better understand each other.
I’m so grateful for my time spent at the Jo Cox Foundation and all that it has taught me and the opportunities for personal and professional development it has allowed for. From joining in May of 2021, nervous about starting my first job but excited for the challenges it would bring, to leaving a year and a half later feeling confident and with a passion to take the values of the Jo Cox Foundation forward with me in any future opportunities. I have truly enjoyed my time and am looking forward to the next steps in my career.