Working life at ActionAid: growth and development | ActionAid UK
As part of ActionAid's Working Lives blog series, we ask six members of staff to share their experiences. Here, ActionAid's Head of Planning and Reporting Paula Feehan and Head of Advocacy Melanie Ward, explain how they have benefitted from working in different positions across the Federation.

As part of ActionAid's 'Working Lives' blog series, we asked staff to share their highlights of working at the Federation. 

Fundraiser Hannah Burrows - currently working in Sierra Leone - discusses the challenges of working for ActionAid in an emergency setting. Meanwhile, Policy Advisor Anders Dahlbeck - who initially joined ActionAid UK following a transfer from Brussels - took an opportunity to cover a Head of Team position as part of a jobshare. Learn how ActionAid treasurer Patti Whaley balances the books.

Experiencing ActionAid's country work

'I don’t think I’ve ever developed as quickly as I did during the three emergency deployments I experienced in Kenya and Jordan in the last few years,' explains Fundraising and Partnerships Manager Hannah Burrows.

Hannah Burrows at Zaatari

'Each time I was part of ActionAid’s response to emergencies in the country and although I was officially doing a fundraising and communications role, I took on plenty of things outside my job description – in an emergency situation, if something needs doing, you do it!

'The quicker pace of work was a great way to understand what ActionAid really does in these situations around the world. Being on the emergency roster is a big personal commitment and the deployments took me out of my comfort zone, really stretching me, but I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

An opportunity in Sierra Leone

'I’m also incredibly lucky to be in my current six-month secondment as Funding and Partnerships Manager in Sierra Leone. Since visiting this beautiful country as part of my previous role, I have wanted to live and work here,' she continues.

'In this role I am writing a fundraising strategy, building relationships with institutional donors such as the EU and the Department for International Development (DfID), training and mentoring country staff and recruiting for someone to take on this role permanently.

'This is a great way to experience what it’s like for our country teams, understanding their ways of working and challenges, and also to bring the UK perspective to them – together we are learning a lot. I am gaining lots of experience and skills in new areas. This is great for my career development.

'It is a privilege to work with ActionAid’s teams around the world, both in an emergency situation and on a day-to-day basis. You see what life and work is like for them.'

Gaining an insight into senior roles

'ActionAid is a flexible employer and good at creating opportunities to keep you interested and motivated,' says Policy Advisor Anders Dahlbeck.

'I have moved from a position in Brussels to one at ActionAid in the UK, and had the opportunity to cover a more senior role as part of a job-share.

Anders Dahlbeck, Policy Advisor (biofuels)

'When the Head of Policy was on leave, a colleague and I were asked if we would like to cover the role for five months. I knew this would be a chance to develop skills and try something new that would be useful for my career. Luckily my colleague was interested in developing different skills, so we were able to decide between us how to split the role.

'I took on the business planning, budgeting and many line management aspects. I really enjoyed having more responsibility, making decisions about much larger budgets and discovering how time-consuming it is to line manage a large team. This gave me a better appreciation of the role of a Head of Team.

'Being exposed to senior management meetings also helped me to better understand how an organisation works. I would like to move into a more senior position in the long-term and this helped me to discover that I enjoyed the role.'

Patti Whaley, ActionAid UK Treasurer

'Keeping track of our fundraising and how we are performing as an organisation is vital for ensuring we focus on the areas that will make the most difference to people living in poverty around the world. I chair the Performance, Finance and Audit Committee to ensure we do just that.

Patricia Whaley, ActionAid UK Trustee

'As the UK Treasurer, I’m also in regular contact with the treasurers of all our member countries, so that we hear each other’s perspectives and have a shared understanding of the challenges we face. We recently met in South Africa to discuss our accountability to the people we support and to our donors, who want to know that their contributions are being used well.

Local programmes run by local people

'I am proud of ActionAid’s focus on local programmes being run by local people. My visit to Sierra Leone was a great opportunity to see some of our local programmes at work in one of the poorest, most challenging countries in the world.

'Whilst there I got to see how the country team ran things and to talk to their local and international partners. All trustees get this opportunity to visit a country programme so that we experience the changes we bring about.'

Photo: ActionAid