Jen Durrant, Policy and Campaigns Officer
They say all good things must come to an end, if only so new ones can begin. That’s certainly how it feels as I enter my final weeks at Z2K. Of course I’m very much looking forward to my next job, and the different opportunities to tackle poverty that will bring, but I can’t help feeling a touch of sadness as I think about all the amazing experiences I’ve had at Z2K.
There are far too many for a single page, so here are just a few.
Working directly with clients
One of the many wonderful things about Z2K is its commitment to client empowerment and giving voice to the people who are so often excluded from decision-making processes. As part of my research I heard from low-income ill and disabled people who were wrongly denied disability benefits, and witnessed the courage and resilience with which they challenged injustice. Writing about their experiences in my report, presenting alongside them at the parliamentary launch and seeing them speak out on national news were some of the greatest privileges of my career to date.
Working with other charities
Across this excellent sector there is a shared recognition that while each organisation has its own strengths, we are so much better together. And just as Z2K gets fantastic results itself, we also work with others to amplify our impact. Being a part of coalitions such as the Disability Benefits Consortium, the London Child Poverty Alliance and the Taking Control campaign has given me a real insight into just how much we can achieve when different organisations come together and call for change. Specially when our hard-hitting policy meetings are accompanied by a cup of tea.
Petitioning against the cuts in Hackney
If you want to get to know your colleagues, there’s nothing quite like shivering together outside a job centre throughout a wet and windy November as you try to persuade local passers-by to sign your petition against the Council’s plans to cut support for their poorest residents. And when all those hours of frostbite culminate in over 500 signatures, a meeting with the Mayor and an official backtrack from the cuts, you realise that sometimes, just sometimes, the old-school methods of activism really are the best.
Developing a huge variety of skills
When planning some new political lobbying, policy colleagues from other organisations will often say things like ‘that sounds good, but I don’t know if our comms people will agree’ or ‘I’ll have to check what our media team can do’ or maybe ‘we need to ask our campaigns department.’ This has never been an issue for me, because if I’m in a policy meeting then so are my comms people, my media team and my entire campaigns department, and I already know exactly what they think. Simply because, they’re all me.
Z2K is such a small organisation, and has given me so much autonomy, I’ve been able to take the lead on our social media, website and communications, whilst also doing a lot for the behind-the-scenes policy work. With such a variety of tasks and challenges, it’s been impossible not to learn new skills.
Being part of an incredible team
But of course, the number one, top of the pops, showstopper highlight from my time at Z2K has to be the amazing people I’ve worked with. Truly. There’s nothing quite like seeing the dedication of the caseworkers, who constantly go above and beyond to fight tirelessly for each client’s rights and wellbeing. Hearing the passion with which everyone from volunteers to the CEO talks about how we can work together to create a fairer society. And spending every working day with some of the most compassionate, intelligent and incredible people I have ever met.
My time at Z2K may be coming to an end, but the experiences – and inspiration – I have gained from it will stay with me forever.