In March, Caroline Bernard became Respect's first ever Head of Influence. The new role, spanning communications and policy, has been created to give Respect and its membership a voice in key influencing spaces.
Caroline, who spent 5 years as Head of Policy and Communications at Homeless Link, brings with her over 20 years' experience in the intricacies of policy making and effective charity comms. We caught up with her about the new role and her plans for Respect's influencing function.
What excites you most about the Head of Influence role?
What really excites me about the role is that it is the first of its kind at Respect, so there is a great opportunity to shape and grow our external relations work. Domestic abuse is one of the key issues in society today, much like homelessness, where I have come from. Respect’s values, being pioneering, collaborative and accountable very much speaks to my own personal values, and that is also exciting.
What are your plans for Respect’s influence function over the next year?
I’m working on Respect's influence strategy, currently in the “discovery” phase. The strategy will set out how communications, policy, and public affairs will help us to achieve our strategic goals between now and 2024. To do this we will need to grow, so I will also be looking at what opportunities there are to access resources to enable this growth.
I’m also planning a member engagement programme, looking at ways we can utilise the skills and expertise of our members, in particular the Accredited members, to inform our influencing work, and support them with local influencing if this is what they want to do.
I will also be working with the team to plan our policy influencing priorities and taking these forwards in the autumn of this year. The overall aim is for Respect to re-position itself externally as the umbrella body for the domestic abuse perpetrator sector.
What do you think will be your biggest challenge?
It is always about funding! The challenge will be to find funders that wish to support our influencing work in a way that fits in with the strategy, so that we can follow the money that helps us achieve our own goals.
How will this role make a difference to those experiencing abuse?
What this role will do is provide a different engagement mechanism to our members providing services on the ground to those experiencing domestic abuse. If we can say to policy makers that the issues we are raising with them are what our members are telling us, and they listen, then I think I will have started to make a difference.
If you could make a connection with one change-maker, who would that be?
I’m keen to get to know Nicole Jacobs, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner. Not only is Nicole an influencer, she also has a wealth of knowledge that I’m keen to tap into as I learn more about the sector over the next six months.