#NICVAPeople - a minute with Siobhán McAlister
Policy Development Officer
How would you explain what you do every day?
I keep the sector updated on political and policy developments. I get organisations to talk to each other and with government. I represent the priorities and concerns of the sector and help organisations to make the world a better place.
How long have you been with NICVA and what did you do before?
I’ve been with NICVA since October 2017, before that I worked for Claire Hanna MLA for two and a half years.
What are you working on right now and how will it impact the wider sector?
We work on a wide range of policy issues across the sector, but at the moment Brexit takes up quite a lot of time. We keep the sector up to date with any developments and represent sector concerns. It is the biggest constitutional challenge for a generation and could have a significant impact for Northern Ireland so we want to ensure the voice of the sector is heard.
I am working to push forward NICVA’s new MediaConnect programme which aims to help our sector get better at engaging with the media. We’ve all got a lot to gain from effective engagement with the media in terms of communicating impact, initiating change, contributing to public debate and educating the public on issues that our sector has direct experience of.
I am also involved in the Joint Forum between the voluntary and community sector and government. This is the only platform where these two sectors have the opportunity to meet on a regular basis to discuss, advise and shape policy issues.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of working at NICVA?
Working in a great, forward-thinking organisation with a good team. You feel like you are making a positive contribution to civic society here which is very rewarding.
If you had to pick just one thing to change about the sector in Northern Ireland what would it be and why?
It would be great if the sector was funded on a more sustainable basis. In recent years the sector has been hit by continuous budget cuts which puts organisations under huge amounts of pressure and negatively impacts the ability to deliver services and support communities.
What’s the last app you downloaded?
I’ve just downloaded the Next Bike app as I have just signed up to a year subscription to Belfast Bikes. It’s great to see the Belfast Bikes been rolled out further across the city and I hope to make greater use of them!
Last holiday you took?I went to New York for the first time with a couple of friends in May.
Slugger O’Toole is good for platforming various local bloggers and discussion on local political issues. But when I take the work hat off I enjoy Thin.Rich.Happy (which is not as shallow as it sounds) for it’s realistic and relatable blogs.
What advice would you give to anyone who wanted to get into the world of policy?
Being creative is useful. You’ll also need to have a pretty keen interest in what is going on in the world around you and want to listen and learn from real peoples’ experiences.
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