Raji Hunjan, Chief Executive
As we head towards the Christmas break, and the end of my first 10 months as Z2K’s new CEO (and only its second since it was founded by the tireless campaigner, Reverend Paul Nicolson), it seems like the right time to reflect on our uniqueness and ability to achieve change in the welfare benefits system.
Z2K’s strengths and successes in its casework and policy work most certainly come from its independence. We currently receive no government funding, and whilst this might change to some extent in the future, we will primarily always be reliant on grants from trusts and foundations, as well as individual donations. While that presents its own challenges – including the constant issue of how to stand out in grant applications – it does mean our services and campaigns are not constrained by contractual arrangements with government. And in writing these grant applications, I have spent much of this year understanding, developing and articulating Z2K’s unique position in what can sometimes seem like a crowded sector of advice giving. In doing this, I was very much influenced by my years of commitment to empowerment strategies, and the use of power analysis and frameworks to engage with how small charities punch above their weight to achieve change.
Below is a simple list of the six ingredients that make Zacchaeus 2000 Trust unique, and that will form the basis of our ability to exercise power and achieve change in 2018:
1. Passionate Staff & Volunteers
We are a strong team of 13, with a diverse range of skills, from legal and advice, to support and social care, through to policy, campaigning, fundraising and operational. In addition, we are lucky enough to attract passionate volunteers, some of whom have been with us for many years, others on shorter term placements. All our staff and volunteers are committed to working collaboratively and contributing to all of Z2K’s work. In 2017 a number of our long standing staff have moved on to more senior roles in other organisations, leading to a year of recruiting new staff to fill existing and new posts. We maintain a strong relationship with all those who have left us and will continue to nurture and support those who have newly joined us.
2. A commitment to reach those who are most hidden and dealing with multiple issues
We have made a strategic decision to take a holistic, client-centred approach to how we deliver casework. In reality, this means we will work to address multiple issues that require advice, such as Universal Credit, housing benefit, disability benefits or council tax. A client may present with one issue, but on deeper analysis, a more pressing matter may arise. And by working with people who are least likely to be able to access advice, we may choose to accompany individuals to appointments and assessments. In fairness, this is how Z2K has always worked, but we have now made it part of our strategic planning and how we will measure our outcomes and successes.
3. Empowerment and voice work
We know we draw much of our strength from the experiences of our clients and that we are stronger if we work with those that we support. We are deeply concerned that the voices of those on benefits are not heard in policy thinking, and we want to support people that we work with to speak out about their experiences. We are particularly concerned about the number of people we work with who rely on food banks and emergency financial help when their benefits are delayed or unfairly stopped. Client voice will be a consideration in all our projects.
4. Collaborating with others in the sector
I can point to a number of existing collaborations which have helped us to achieve our goals, as well as some exciting new partnerships. In 2017, we started a new project with South West London Law Centre and others, to provide wrap around support to people in Lambeth, Wandsworth and Westminster. By working with people to help them avoid financial crisis, we want to build trust and longer term links that will help us to achieve our goal of empowering more people.
5. A strategy for change with tangible outcomes
We have developed a much clearer framework of our change strategies, and this will be published in 2018 as part of our new website launch. We are working on new methods for gathering evidence, including client questionnaires and surveys. When we achieve change, we want to shout about it.
6. Strong leadership
Well of course that’s partly my role, and I am lucky enough to be backed by a strong set of trustees who all understand what the charity aims to achieve, and have built strategies for development whilst managing risk. I am also really pleased that we will be a part of the Pilotlight programme, to further develop our plans for income generation and diversification.
After 10 months of understanding and establishing our unique position, I am confident that 2018 is going to be a good year for Zacchaeus 2000 Trust. And, after all those grant applications, we are very excited to start the new year with some additional new funding, including from Lloyds Foundation jointly with Big Lottery to further develop our work housing people in the private rented sector.
So watch this space, follow us on Twitter, and get in touch to share, discuss, plot, think and do more together. We look forward to seeing you in 2018.