6th March 2013 Nairobi, Kenya
From the Olympic village to Somalia – FCO women’s stories
In the lead up to International Women’s Day on Friday, we are featuring the stories of women who work for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as guest posts across the FCO bloggers’ network.
Jane Stevens and Tracey McLelland are a successful job sharing duo who are part of the communications team working on the upcoming London Conference on Somalia.
How do you follow up a stint leading the Foreign Office’s overseas communications efforts around London 2012 Olympic Games, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to highlight the best of Britain, working with our Embassies around the world?
By joining the FCO’s brand new Projects Task Force to work on Somalia.
We have worked as a job share partnership for the past two-and-a-half years, each working three days a week. The modern Foreign Office is really waking up to the possibilities of flexible working, and our previous job on the London 2012 campaign was a case in point.
Our Head of Team was a job share position, with other team members working from bases in our Embassies in Beijing, Cairo, Moscow, Pretoria and Mexico. But it worked, and worked well –so much so that the Guardian shortlisted our communications campaign for their 2012 Public Services Awards.
There is plenty of exciting work still going on to make the most of the London 2012 legacy – but for us, apart from the odd touch of nostalgia, 2012 is so last year!
And 2013 has brought the opportunity to join the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s newest department and be part of a new way of working.
The Projects Task Force brings together officers from various grades, currently over 70% of us are women. Most of us have varied working patterns – part time, unusual hours and some colleagues work remotely from other countries, as well as our jobshare.
It brings a flexible new resource to the FCO, allowing teams working on high priority policy areas or projects to bid for extra staff to help during particularly busy or critical times.
Which is how we now find ourselves leading the communications efforts around the Somalia Conference, to be co-hosted by the Governments of the UK and Somalia in London on 7 May. We have brought our communications skills with us, but learning about Africa and Somalia is a whole new world. We’re loving it so far.
We have built up a network with colleagues across Government with an interest in the conference; developed our communications strategy, researched audiences in Somalia, including learning about their preference for radio over press and the internet.
We have launched a conference website and even filmed the Somali President on his recent visit to the UK. All this happens while handing the issues back and forward between us every Monday and Thursday on our “handover” days.
Somalia, digital engagement and video conferences with colleagues in Nairobi one day, then after some time updating and getting things in order, it’s over to the other half of the partnership for a couple of days. The other goes back to the school run, housework and – this week – devising costumes for World Book Day celebrations!
Work-life balance can make for an eclectic mix.