NGO and Advocacy – Megan Karlshoej-Pedersen
Megan did a Politics in Action placement at Refugee Action and worked on research and advocacy projects. She then co-founded a new social enterprise based on expertise and contacts she gained during her placement.
For my Politics in Action placement, I wanted to ensure that I could utilize the theoretical knowledge I was developing through my Politics and International Relations degree, to improve the situation for refugees in the United Kingdom. I applied for a vacancy at Refugee Action, and used my Politics in Action placement as a Political Researcher from August 2015 to April 2016. This placement allowed me to kick-start my career before I had even graduated, by introducing me to the big players in the field, and providing me with invaluable experience.
My roles were varied, and I enjoyed great autonomy. When I started, one of the primary tasks was to map all 650 MPs, and create a database documenting their contact details, relevant background information, and any statements on refugees and asylum seekers. This was a rather meticulous task, which required me to quickly and efficiently scan traditional media outlets, social media, personal websites, and Hansard and concisely relay the information in the database. This database has been used continuously by the Policy and Advocacy team at Refugee Action.
I also performed extensive in-depth research and analysis of the provision of English education for newly arrived refugees, in the UK. While politicians, including former and current Prime Ministers, continue to demand that all refugees learn English, they are also cutting the budgets and forcing hundreds of ESOL providers to shut down. My research helped inform Refugee Action’s current campaign to challenge this and provide better language training (you can go here to support this campaign).
I was lucky to be invited to events where we could actively advocate for better rights for refugees. In parliament, my colleagues and I participated in governmental events to advocate with MPs, and then-Home Office Secretary, Theresa May. These events were incredibly interesting and it was fantastic to talk to people who have political power, and are keen to use it.
On top of the invaluable working experiences that I gained from my placement, I was allowed to use the cutting-edge research of the Refugee Action Policy and Advocacy Department in my dissertation, which examined the policies dealing with forced migrants in the UK. This enabled me to couple the theoretical arguments of my dissertation with the newest data from the UK’s leading refugee-rights advocate.
After graduating, I was contacted by consultants for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) who were aware of my work for Refugee Action. They invited me to co-found The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network, which is a social enterprise based in London that enables entrepreneurial refugees in the UK to start their own businesses. This allows them to utilize their existing skills and actively contribute to their local communities. I am convinced that I would not be where I am today without my PIA placement at Refugee Action.
If you would like to kick-start your career, and start applying the theoretical knowledge you have been building for the last two years, do your Politics in Action Placement! Find 20 companies or NGOs that you really like, and enquire about opportunities for a placement – you might be surprised by the results.