Project Co-ordinator for Faith Matters
BA Theology and Religion, 2017
What does your role involve?
Working for a smaller organisation my role is particularly flexible. This is great because it means I am able to develop a more diverse set of skills; from sending emails, drafting grant applications to attending topical conferences that might feed into our broader work. I have been fortunate enough to have joined Faith Matters as it started to launch a new long-term project to provide a support service for families affected by violent extremism, so a lot of my work has focused on organising and developing the necessary systems, structures and partners to get this going.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love being out of the office when I can! I really enjoy the opportunities I have to meet with other individuals and organisations, be it members of Parliament, other charities or statutory authorities. Already it has opened up so many avenues that I didn’t know existed! On top of this, I find it rewarding to play a small part in a much bigger goal to bridge gaps of understanding and build working relationships between communities.
What’s most challenging?
Since starting, I soon realised that the countering non-violent/violent extremism field is particularly sensitive, controversial and demands a (sometimes painfully) nuanced understanding of the issues at hand. Writing an essay about the challenges of Prevent for example is a whole different ball game to dealing with them in real every day scenarios! It has and continues to be a steep learning curve to get a sense of the real, practical implications of different perspectives and priorities and how to tactfully navigate around this. It is an ongoing and I expect never ending challenge to find the balance between idealism and pragmatism, reflection and action.
How did your time at Birmingham help prepare you for this role?
Having studied Theology & Religion a lot of the content has been directly relevant to my new role. In particular, my dissertation research into understanding the modern trajectory of Islamic radicalism has been somewhat of a ‘godsend’! However, this specific knowledge is not necessarily mandatory for my role; more so, my time at Birmingham has equipped me with critical thinking, interpersonal skills and the confidence to be able to engage with all sorts of issues and people at different levels.
What advice would you give to students interested in your industry or role?
In terms of finding a first job, I followed up a contact I made through a course trip to parliament, asking about prospective opportunities - so I would definitely advise going on these and speaking to people; even if it seems inconsequential at the time, you never know!
As mentioned, this type of job/industry is controversial and even emotive. It helped me to follow some of the existing organisations and individuals working within this field on twitter to get a feel for the different perspectives and approaches and consider where I might align myself. Keep a note of all the interesting/inspirational people that you come across and in some cases, it might be worth contacting them to find out more about what they do and any direction they can give.