Working Life: Natasha Kennedy of Sightsavers says lobbying politicians can be hard work

The policy campaigns manager at the charity that works to eliminate avoidable blindness talks about her job

Natasha Kennedy decided against a career in the law because she wanted to campaign on policy issues
Natasha Kennedy decided against a career in the law because she wanted to campaign on policy issues

I studied law at university and went on to do an internship at Amnesty International. During my time there, I realised that I wanted to be a lobbyist and not a lawyer after all.

I've worked in public affairs in both the charity and private sectors for the past eight years; I joined Sightsavers last year from a public affairs agency.

At the end of 2013, Sightsavers launched Put Us In The Picture, its first policy campaign. The campaign calls on the Department for International Development to put together a disability strategy so people with disabilities can participate in and benefit from international development programmes.

My job requires me to work with the charity's policy adviser for social inclusion, its parliamentary adviser and the communications team to shape our messages to different target audiences.

I spend Tuesdays and Wednesdays in Whitehall meeting MPs and government special advisers to discuss our campaign. Meeting with MPs used to be easy, but things are changing slightly. Gone are the days of a coffee and a catch-up. Now you have to make sure your message is relevant to that politician or adviser and have a specific action for them to take.

Because Put Us In The Picture is Sightsavers' first policy campaign, we are not known for campaigning in this way. This requires us to motivate a new audience and work internally across departments that often have other priorities. I have to ensure everybody understands the relevance of this work and how they can support it.

The best part of the job is when people take action. You have to work really hard to lobby politicians and motivate the public, so when they do something in support of your campaign it feels great. For example, we've recently had the International Development Committee, the select committee that scrutinises DfID's work, fully agree with our call for a disability strategy, which is a huge success. We've also had more than 13,000 members of the public support the campaign.

Natasha Kennedy is a policy campaigns manager at Sightsavers

Sightsavers works in more than 30 countries to eliminate avoidable blindness – 80 per cent of all cases – and supports people with visual impairments to live independent lives

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