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Caroline Davey, Director of Policy, Advice and Communications for Gingerbread makes a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis. She runs a team responsible for campaigning and influencing government policy involving single parents.

Here we pick her brains on her rise to the top, karaoke and just how amazing it is to be able to make a change in the world.

Describe your typical working day.
My alarm goes at 6.30am and I immediately turn on Radio 4’s Today programme – it’s vital I keep up to speed with the news, and a breaking story can set my agenda for the day. I arrive at the office around 9am and load up on coffee. My day can include meeting politicians in Westminster, brainstorming with my team about new campaign ideas, editing reports on new research we’ve done into single parents’ lives, polishing our latest online advice tools, or doing media interviews. Occasionally all in one day! I’m usually out of the office by 7pm and often spend the evenings catching up with friends or at the theatre.

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Is working for a charity as rewarding as you imagined?
I get the biggest kick out of running a successful campaign – nothing beats the sense of achievement in securing a policy or legislative change that I know will make a real difference to single parents’ lives. On the flip side, battling the stigma and stereotyping that single parents can still face – in the 21st century – can be really frustrating.

How did you get to where you are today?
After a history degree and a first job in research, I moved into the charity sector and have never looked back – campaigning for change is what really motivates me, and I’ve worked on issues including childcare, sexual health, and housing along the way to my job here at Gingerbread.

Have you had any setbacks along the way?
Setbacks are part and parcel of campaigning. Achieving real change is never easy and it’s important not to get downhearted when you get knocked back. Determination and a good dose of grit are essential in this job.

We’re always obsessing over our work/life balance, how do you manage it?
As a family charity we have really great flexible working policies, and I’ve recently switched to working full-time hours compressed into four long days, which gives me a day a week to concentrate on other interests, such as doing work for a local charity which runs homeless night shelters, of which I’ve recently become a trustee.

What have you learned along the way?
One person can make a difference. Although we campaign for such a large group – there are two million single parent families in the UK – we’re a relatively small organisation. But we can and do achieve change.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Go for it – advice which helped me apply for (and get!) at least two of my jobs.

What advice would you give someone trying to break into the charity industry?
When you work for a charity it’s really important that you care about the cause, so do what you believe in. And always do your homework before an interview – I can’t count the number of applications I’ve read where people who claim to want the job can’t even get the name of the charity right!

What did you buy with your first big pay cheque?

Big pay cheques aren’t what you work in the charity sector for, so it was probably a budget airline ticket – travelling is my one real luxury.

How do you unwind after a tough day at work?
I’ve been training in kung fu for nearly five years and I find it’s a great way to de-stress – work troubles melt away when you’re focusing on nailing the next kick or punch!

How would your colleagues describe you?
Supportive, cool in a crisis and incisive.

Do you socialise with your colleagues?
We have regular team lunches or drinks, and the occasional karaoke trip (but what happens at karaoke stays at karaoke, so I can say no more about that…).

Tell us your five-year goal.
My ultimate career goal is to run a charity – but this may be more like a 10-year rather than a five-year goal.

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