Shwmae! – I’m Em[ma]

7 min read Written by: Emma Northcote

I’m a happy artist, a mam to two, and an international bog-snorkeller! I’m never bored.

I join Perago after 22 years in policing, finishing my time as Head of Corporate Communications at Heddlu Dyfed-Powys Police – a job I could only have dreamt of after graduating back in 2001 with a degree in public relations from the University of Exeter.

The feeling generated by the contribution an effective police communications team can make when communities feel at their most vulnerable is one I have bottled and popped on my shelf to cherish forever; but, it’s time for a change, and the next big challenge.

Why Perago?

Perago is about helping public services, particularly here in Wales, do better and be better for the communities they serve. Nowhere more so can I help with this than in the development of community insight and engagement models – something I have worked on tirelessly for the last ten years and can talk to you about for hours… days even, if you give me a chance!

While crisis management and communication has been my ‘thing’ for most of my working life, I spent a very fulfilling seven years working within the corporate development department at South Wales Police – a role that really shaped me – teaching me that curious questions can be the most valuable, and that there’s no one way of doing things. My time in this role also led me to be nominated in the Leading Wales Awards 2014, and shortlisted as a finalist, recognising the passion I showed for doing the best on behalf of communities, and the shoe-rubber I put in to ensure that residents were properly understood and involved in the work to improve policing local to them.

It was also during this time that I completed an MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice, fuelling my appetite for evidence-based decision making, and a passion for user-centred thinking and design.

User centred design is really important, and with Perago I have an opportunity to be part of making big change happen across more than one organisation and beyond one sector.

What added value do I bring?

One of the things I’m keen to do in my role with Perago is to help build an understanding and offering around delivering bilingual services. Access to services in Welsh is a right. Here in Wales it’s the law, but all too often this right is ‘met’ through the translation of English content. Job done? No!

Leading a communications team policing our country’s most rural parts, and where living through Welsh is the norm, I learnt that working bilingually is about more than the language. Working bilingually isn’t only about ensuring that everything that’s in English is also available in Welsh, it transcends translation – it’s about community, and within that, recognition of dialect and choice.

As a South Walian who had few opportunities to engage through Welsh after returning from university in England and working in a mostly monoglot service during the early part of my career, regaining confidence to speak our language once at Heddlu Dyfed-Powys Police gave me whole new perspective on bilingualism and the provision of services. This is something I will be developing in my new role. I’m researching and learning and always looking to speak with people to challenge my thoughts and stretch my mind, so please get in touch if you can help

Reckon you’ll like it, then?

As I head towards the end of my first month as Engagement Lead with Perago, I realise that so much  of what I’ve done before has a name; the things that I’ve pushed to do as part of a project, or the insight I’ve fought to get so my teams can be confident that the work we did made a difference, was the right thing to do. This feels huge to me. My values align with those of Perago. The hills I chose to die on were the right hills! 🙈

While these first four weeks have shown me how transferrable my skills are, it has also shown me that there is so much more to learn. I’ve definitely found my next big challenge here and I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can create together.