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At Homeless Link, our members are united by the vision of a country free from homelessness. This vision means that alongside practical frontline support, we often find ourselves speaking up about the policies that drive people into cycles of poverty and homelessness.

Policy influencing comes in many forms. Some larger organisations have well-defined policy goals and teams dedicated to achieving them. Others may hold a handful of staff in system change posts, and more will find themselves pushed into campaigning when policy decisions obstruct their work. Regardless of where or why we do it, policy making often happens quickly and opportunities to reflect, connect and learn can be few and far between.

The Policy Influencing Network is our attempt to fix this. We want to bring together policy and system change workers from across the homelessness sector together to network, build skills and learn from one another. Quarterly Policy Influencing Network meetings will provide a space for attendees to dig into the hows and whys of policy-making, discuss common challenges with peers and build connections across the sector no matter the scale or the ambition of your policy goals.

The Network is something I wish had existed earlier. I entered the world of policy through a system change role at a small but wonderful charity. I was straight out of a frontline post, with a broad remit – improve homelessness systems for women. The imposter syndrome was overwhelming at times and I would never have described what I did as policy. Over time, I connected with more and more people like me – people who, despite creating amazing change, would nervously confide that they were making it up as they went along. There was always relief in finding out others felt the same. And the rare opportunities to talk about not just what we were doing, but also how we were doing it, usually meant coming away with a few new tips and reassurance that things were OK after all.

When I began working for Homeless Link, I remained self conscious of the wiggling route I had taken into the job. Where others seemed to have instinctive knowledge of Westminster and white papers, I’d built my experience by making cups of tea, helping people navigate through homelessness services, and watching the strain on the system from the inside. In truth, the homelessness sector has always gained strength through diversity of experience. We’ve long been comprised of people who have been there, seen that, and decided to push for change. Lived experience of homelessness, time spent in frontline services, or close examination of the laws that perpetuate homelessness – there is no ‘wrong’ route into policymaking.

Change, local or national, comes from dedicated people who have the resources to stick with it. Even when it’s hard, even when it’s isolated. But we know the job is easier when there are people to share with and learn from. Whether you’re an experienced policy bod, a passionate system changer or a practitioner who is curious about where to start, the Policy Influencing Network is for you. Come along prepared to chat, reflect and share what you know. You may walk away with more than you expect.

The first meeting of the Policy Influencing Network is at 10-11.30am on Thursday 6th July and you can book your place here. Meetings are virtual and free to attend for Homeless Link members.

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Cat Tottie

Policy Manager