Find out what it’s like to work at Renaisi as Jenny McConnel, shares her experience of being a Place Programme Manager.

As Place Programme Manager I work across both consultancy and services, to explore how the concept of ‘place’ can be used to improve the impact of what Renaisi delivers.

I joined Renaisi 9 months ago. Before that, I studied politics for both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, and worked at a small consultancy in Wales delivering social research projects, policy analysis and evaluation. Most of the work was for the public sector, and covered a wide range of areas such as sustainable food and drink, low carbon energy solutions, equality and diversity research, and education.

After three years – and aware that my opportunity to do so was becoming increasingly limited – I went to work in the European Parliament in 2019. I was there for just six months, but in that time, I gained a fascinating insight into the ways in which complex policy is formed. I quickly realised my textbooks had barely scratched the surface of the real processes involved! Importantly, I saw first-hand the importance of a solid evidence base in the formation of policy, and informing decision-makers at all levels of government.

My background in social research and policy analysis meant that working on ‘place’ and ‘systems change’ at Renaisi provided an opportunity to use both these skillsets in a variety of settings. The Place Programme Manager role was new when I started, which has proved challenging and rewarding.

No typical day

The nature of the projects and teams I work with means no two days are the same in my role. There are some structures that remain the same: Mondays and Wednesdays, for example, begin with a catch-up with the Consultancy team. I started working for Renaisi during the Covid-19 pandemic, and it was nice to see how the team has adapted to encourage social interaction despite remote working.  I also spend the first half an hour or so of my day checking and responding to emails, and making sure I have access to notes ahead of any meetings that day.

I usually have a couple of meetings or phone calls with clients or associates to catch up on how projects are progressing. One project under development at the moment is the Social Inclusion and Collaboration Pilot, for Black Thrive. We are delivering a scoping study and pilot referral project to address the intersection of race and health inequalities in Lambeth; Black people with long-term health conditions are more likely to be out of work than White people with long-term health conditions.

This project is a great example of my role as it combines the knowledge of Renaisi’s consultancy and employment services colleagues, with a focus on using ‘place’ to address a structural social problem.

Between meetings, I might do a policy review, develop research materials (e.g. topic guides), or support bid or report writing. I spend the end of each day prepping for any meetings or client calls I may have the next day, and making sure my team members are up to date with any updates resulting from the days meetings.

Sharing learning

Alongside the development and delivery of our place projects, a key part of my role is to develop understanding and use of ‘place-based systems change thinking’ with the Renaisi team.

We held a staff workshop earlier this month, and I plan to hold further thematic place workshops with the team to keep sharing our learning.

Place chart
How to categorise place-based work.

There is an internal working group, and we meet to collate learning from across the business and address the challenges of place-based working.

You can read more about Renaisi’s work on place-based systemic change here.

Working at Renaisi

When I was looking for work after my stint in Brussels, I was immediately attracted to the idea of working for Renaisi due to the wide range of work delivered across both employability services and the research & learning consultancy; it feels great to be part of a company that aims to help vulnerable and marginalised people.

Renaisi is  also great at encouraging internal initiatives to improve the business and our working practices. One area that I am interested in, but focus less on now than in previous roles is sustainability and food; but I am able to explore that through our internal Sustainability Working Group.

The range of projects Renaisi is involved in means that I both learn a lot, and have the opportunity to pursue different interests. For example, I worked on a consultancy project for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s Growth Borough Partnership. Getting to grips with the complexities of London devolution and the policy that informed the original Olympic legacy Commitments (and where responsibility lay for each) provided an interesting challenge. It is always rewarding to help clients through complex issues, and provide recommendations to help their practices going forward.

Jenny McConnel