The Catalyst Year - James’s Story

I started my year at GAP in September 2015, eager to gain some valuable work experience and learn more about an environmental charity and my own strengths. At first my focus was on gaining experience in measurement and analysis and although this is still an area of interest for me, I have shifted my priority towards external programme delivery.

My work involves putting the strategy and structure of programmes into action. For Water Explorer, our schools programme for 8-14 year olds, a lot of my time involves communicating messages to our 10 delivery partners which are spread throughout Europe.

I have responsibility for the Water Explorer email inbox where partners from around Europe ask questions and share knowledge and ideas. It’s a challenging but enjoyable task as all areas of the programme are covered, from queries regarding awards and events, to expense submissions to website questions. It’s given me a unique insight into a far-reaching programme and good knowledge of the barriers and challenges our partners face when working to deliver sustainable behaviour change for the benefit of our environment. Over the past nine months, I’ve also got to grips with technical elements of the programme ensuring our partners are able to log technical problems which I help them solve.

A highlight of the year for me was a visit to Bologna in Italy where our Water Explorer annual delivery partner meeting was held. I was responsible for recording minutes, summarising discussions to the group and ensuring that the sessions ran smoothly. It was a great experience and honed skills that will be useful to me in the future.

More recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work on research requirements for our future business development. In these cases, it’s my responsibility to explore contacts and feed the information back to GAP’s senior partners. It’s quite exciting to know that by gathering information from Linked In, company websites and annual reports, I may be making a future connection between GAP and a client who is eager to create awareness and change behaviours around sustainability in their organisation.

Delivering programmes, seeing impact

Much of my role as a Programme Assistant requires spending time visiting organisations that we work with, seeing programmes in action and supporting behavioural change campaigns. I have visited a number of hospitals that are part of Operation TLC (an award-winning behaviour change programme developed by Global Action Plan and Barts Health NHS Trust) to talk to staff and gauge how well the campaign is running.

The visits are a chance to hear how a programme I work on affects individuals’ daily lives. It’s my role to talk to staff to see how our message is being delivered and offer advice, support and guidance to help them continue to see impact. I’ve learned how to challenge opinions and to see the value of recognising employees for their comments and actions.

Everyone’s opinion is valued at GAP so after these visits, I’m able to feed any insights that I’ve learned back to the GAP team and take part in discussions about improvements and next steps.

Developing leaders for positive environmental change

And finally, no development placement would be complete without an element of Learning and Development.

The Catalyst programme at GAP is really well supported with training for both your personal development and improved behaviour change knowledge. This ensures that we have the best skills and knowledge in place to carry out our job. We have a number of hours devoted to training each week and also have a 1-2-1 every fortnight with our training coach. This allows us to address any problems we face and also to focus on skills we would like to develop to improve our future career prospects.

All in all, becoming a Programme Assistant through the GAP catalyst programme has been a thoroughly enjoyable learning curve. I have upskilled in areas such as communication, writing, creating content, research, multi-tasking and I have even gained new skills in client relationship management and business development. I can only hope that future career roles are just as fruitful.

Could you be one of our next Catalysts? Applications for the 2016/17 intake close on Friday 29 July. Read more about the job and how to apply.