Bye Bye Barriers: This Programme Helps Recent Grads Launch Their Impact Careers

Charityworks was named one of the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers. Craig Pemblington shares how they're revolutionizing recruitment in the social impact sector.

by Olwen Smith, February 28, 2018
Charityworks interview

Can you tell us a little bit about Koreo and the main programmes you run?

Koreo is a talent consultancy dedicated to social impact and the development of people lies at the heart of what we do. We mobilise talent to create social change, partly through programmes and partly through consultancy work.

Our best known programme is Charityworks, which is the UK non-profit sector’s graduate scheme launched in 2009. The number of organisations we work with has since grown from 6 to over 80, covering a wide variety of issue areas including international development, social housing, LGBT rights and gender equality.

Charityworks is a year-long, paid programme in which participants have a full-time job at one of our partner organisations and also simultaneously take part in leadership development programme. We offer around 140 placements to graduates who are interested in creating social change and the scheme has been include in the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers.

What are the main attributes you look for in applicants?

The main thing we look for is a hunger to bring about social change. Past experience isn’t necessary, it’s more about an applicant’s potential. We look for people who can demonstrate that they’re passionate about improving the world and that they have the potential to develop as leaders in the sector as they move through their career. Not only should they committed to social change but also committed to their own personal development. Other important competencies are resilience and the ability to work well in teams. You can find more details about what we look for in applicants here.

How do you measure the impact of the programme?

The accurate measurement of impact is always very difficult, especially trying to express it in quantifiable terms, and this has been a big challenge for the not-for-profit (NFP) sector more generally. We do keep track of the service user base of the organisations we work with, calculating the aggregate footprint of the social impact of the programme’s participants - and we’re always amazed at how many people benefit from the services, the number is in the thousands or even tens of thousands!

We also try to measure the impact the programme has on it’s participants - we regularly check in with those currently in placements and also evaluate how connected past participants feel to the alumni network.

What do you see as the biggest hurdles preventing graduates from entering the charity/social impact sector?

From the perspective of the organisations, the biggest barrier to finding the best graduate talent lies in the high costs of campus recruitment. Charityworks aims to remove this barrier by pooling many organisations together and representing them on campus. For graduates, often the strength of opportunity in the NFP sector is not entirely clear. Entry routes may not be obvious, with people thinking that they have to volunteer or do unpaid internships to get their foot in the door - this of course raises issues of social mobility.

Additionally, career progression may not be as structured as in the private sector and the NFP sector doesn’t do a great job of selling itself. The Charityworks programme aims to overcome most of these barriers by guaranteeing a paid job with both personal and professional development - we want to demonstrate to graduates interested in social change that someone is investing in them and thinking about their future careers.

We love that each graduate is assigned a mentor and that the programme has built out a strong alumni network. How important do you think mentorship and creating relationships is for those who are early on in their career?

Research has shown that for strong career development, mentorship at an early stage is crucial. Often when people join the Chartiyworks programme they’re not exactly sure how their career path will develop, so they use the programme as an opportunity to explore the various options available to them, and having a mentor is really helpful for this process. We ensure that the mentors we assign work for a different organisation to the one in which the participant is working, which provides a helpful, external perspective. We’ve found that people in the early stages of their career tend to undervalue themselves, so we include peer coaching and try to build up the confidence needed to inspire participants to pursue their chosen career path.

How do you see the Charityworks programme developing in the future?

We envision the programme growing both geographically and in size. In recent years the regional spread of placements across the UK has widened. However, we plan to continue to increase the number which are available outside the London area, as it is extremely important that talented graduates feel they can stay within a region. Looking ahead, we also want to ensure that the programme continues to meet the needs of the sector over the coming years. Ultimately it’s about the service users which these organisations are supporting and the impact on society as a whole, as well as developing those who want to dedicate their career to social change. Finally, we would love to engage with more of the talent who apply for the programme but don’t end up getting placements. It’s highly competitive and we see huge potential to engage the high number of applicants in other ways.

Finally, can you tell us a little about the other programmes which Koreo run?

Of course, we run a programme called Change100 which is aimed at graduates and students with a disability or long term (physical or mental) health condition. Change100 includes a paid 3 month internship scheme, along with a 6 month personal and professional development programme. The recruitment process for it is very inclusive as it removes barriers which people with a disability my face when looking for work. We also run another programme called 2027 which tackles the problem of a lack of class diversity within the grant-giving sector. Many trusts and foundations aim to help working class communities but struggle to do this effectively without the value of the lived experience of these communities at decision-making levels (or management levels). 2027 is a new, paid training programme that prepares brilliant professionals from working class backgrounds for decision making roles in the grant-giving sector.

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