|English and Related Literature|
|English & Philosophy|
|Publisher & Literary Partnerships Lead, Amnesty International|
|Charity and voluntary sector|
|Large business (250+ employees)|
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A day in the life of a Publisher & Literary Partnerships Lead, Amnesty International in the United Kingdom
Yes, you need to earn a living - but if it doesn't interest you, then carve out some spare time and really put effort into doing what you enjoy. It will bear fruit.
Briefly describe the organisation you work for
Amnesty International is the largest human rights organisation in the world.
What do you do?
I run the publishing programme, where I have developed a focus on literature for children and young people. It's an innovative area, exploring deep links between story-telling and human rights. Our goal is to use stories, poetry and illustration to develop knowledge and awareness of human rights, build empathy and give children and young people the confidence to stand up for themselves and others. My role mainly entails strategy development, collaborations with publishing houses, author and illustrator book commissions, global partnerships (to explore particular needs in different communities around the world and develop books for them) and relationship development with artists and authors. I also work closely with human rights educators in the development of online and offline teaching resources for classroom use. My biggest project to date is on child rights: I have worked closely with Angelina Jolie, with whom I've co-written a book for teenagers, 'Know Your Rights and Claim Them', out in September 2021.
Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?
This didn't exist as a career when I started out and when I graduated I had no idea at all where I was going. With hindsight, my degree in literature and philosophy (especially ethics) gave me a really strong grounding for what I now do so many years later. My love of literature and interest in ideas and the practical application of philosophy has ultimately stood me in good stead. I was also lucky enough to be allowed to play with this in the workplace - nobody else was working in this field before I started doing it at Amnesty. We have a long way to go before it's widely recognised that children's literature should be used to explore human rights, but I feel we've made a good start.
Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?
I was very ignorant of what the options were, but had been a member of Amnesty when at school so expect I would have been proud to envisage this.
Describe your most memorable day at work
A few months ago I went to a session with children at Chickenshed, an inclusive theatre company. The children had been helping us with research for a forthcoming book on child rights, in order to uphold their human right to a voice. This session was to feed back to them the ideas they and other children had generated. The children's insights were unexpectedly profound and I found it incredibly moving. One little girl with Downs said to me: "It's all very well having the right to express yourself, but it's not much use if nobody listens." Her wisdom goes straight to the point of why human rights matter and why we need to communicate them.
Are there any challenges associated with your job?
Massive challenges. Within the human rights sector, children's books are seen as a soft option. Within the children's publishing sector, human rights are seen as too challenging. I have to keep both sides on track, without diffusing the project. In addition my work is about long term attitudinal change, and it's often up against human rights crises that require colleagues' immediate short-term attention.
What’s your work environment and culture like?
Very varied. People from all over the world, many with deep knowledge of human rights issues, most of us passionate about our work. But be warned - it is full of jargon and people on their own individual missions!
What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?
It's a long time ago - I was in a drama group through the Modern Theatre unit of my English degree, also the Latin America society… I travelled to Soviet Bulgaria to volunteer on an archaeological dig… I kind of wish I had done more and would say it's well worth trying out lots of activities, as it's unlikely you'll ever be exposed to such a wealth of opportunities again. You learn from all of them, even if it's awareness of what you don't want to do.
What would you like to do next with your career?
I'd like to work more directly with children and young people, as much of my work is abstract.
What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?
Explore your interests and do what makes you happy as much as you can. Yes, you need to earn a living - but if it doesn't interest you, then carve out some spare time and really put effort into doing what you enjoy. It will bear fruit.
What topics from students are you happy to answer questions on?
I have a lot of knowledge of literature, human rights, publishing and relationship management. Also I'd be happy to help you explore how you can flourish by developing work beyond the confines of your role.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
Stay curious, keep learning, and do what sparks your interests and creativity.
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