My name is Martha, and I have been a Policy Intern in Shaw Trust’s Policy Institute since July.
I first became aware of Shaw Trust when conducting research at university, examining the barriers to employment faced by disabled people. I read about the work and Parliamentary contributions of Clare Gray, Shaw Trust’s Organisational Lead for Disability Advocacy. I felt really aligned and inspired with the social enterprise’s mission and service provision, helping people with complex challenges across their life course into rewarding employment.
I studied International Social and Public Policy at university and had done a previous policy internship at an employment charity, so I knew the policy, research, and advocacy space was for me. I was excited by the newly-created Policy Institute’s focus on integrating lived experiences of service users and its evidence-based approach to policy scrutiny. These are core principles everyone in the Policy Institute team champions.
When I started, I was very much thrown in at the deep end, and working in the Policy Institute definitely requires a lot of self-starting initiative – but it really pays off. Whether it’s volunteering to attend policy discussion events or writing consultation responses to important government policies, the Institute has really developed my ability to lead on projects.
The work we produce as interns is extremely rewarding. After scouring research papers for evidence, working with your team to integrate the lived experiences of the people using Shaw Trust’s services, and shaping written submissions into robust policy analysis, you really get the sense that you’re contributing to a more positive policy landscape.
Working as part of Shaw Trust’s Foundation team also enables us to feel part of the organisation’s wider ambitions. Each intern was assigned a key policy area to research and scope out to inform Shaw Trust’s updated Strategy post-Covid. Here, we really felt like experts in our designated areas and felt represented as a team in our new priorities and goals.
Collaboration across and beyond Shaw Trust has been a key feature of my internship experience. Since the beginning, we’ve been invited to meetings with academics, politicians, the media, other advocacy groups and think tanks, and businesses to engage with them and get their perspectives. We also engage closely with the marketing and communications teams, our services branches, and our directorate. These collaborative relationships really widened our horizons and professional networks, and in some cases, landed us post-internship careers!
My favourite aspect of working in policy is monitoring and keeping on top of news and developments. One of the tasks undertaken by interns is producing the weekly bulletin. This requires a keen eye for detail and a real interest in the political environment we find ourselves in today.
The culture is super friendly, flexible, and supportive, and positive feedback is always shared with everyone. There’s a lot of guidance and development to learn how briefings, consultations, notes, and monitoring should be produced, as well as the encouragement to get it wrong at first! The interns’ perspectives are always requested and respected alongside those of senior advisors. I’ve really felt part of a team, and will definitely take the friendships I’ve made into my next role and beyond.
I’m so grateful for my experience at Shaw Trust, and have grown both personally and professionally. Shaw Trust is leading in the policy internship space with this opportunity paid at the Real Living Wage rate, and encourages young people from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds to become part of its team.