Law and Arts, 2012
Leader, Storyteller, Change Agent.
Since graduating from UC 5 years ago, Erin Jackson has taken on a range of governance roles and formed her own successful communications business, Narrative. She is passionate about enabling new start-ups and social enterprises to achieve success, and is a big believer in equality, inclusiveness and challenging the status quo. “As a society I think our expectations and motivations are changing. The more we can engage in purpose-driven work and see business as a force for good, the better.”
Tell us about your company, Narrative – how did it come about?
I’d been working as a freelance consultant in Christchurch. I was collaborating with a group of people and I realised it would be better if we worked under one umbrella, so I formed Narrative. Our mission is to build communities and tell stories for social enterprises and start-ups. We help our clients be heard, whether that's through crowdfunding, events or communication.
How does Narrative link to what you did at UC?
At university I was very involved in the clubs scene. I helped create the Student Volunteer Army and was on executive committees my entire time. Those experiences really developed my work ethic and taught me skills I could apply to other things. While I don't practice as lawyer, what I did in my studies is directly applicable too. Analysing, doing research, writing – all these abilities I credit to my law degree.
What’s been your highlight at Narrative so far?
We’ve worked with over 50 organisations in the past few years. We've been privileged to help a number of people on their journeys. We're very much there to support our clients from behind-the-scenes, so it's seeing their success that really excites us. The enduring relationships we form with our clients is a testament to the work we do.
What are you proudest of having achieved?
I'm really proud of our team. It's primarily made up of UC graduates. I look around as one of our Kickstarter campaigns is tracking into the hundreds of thousands, and it's the willingness and attitude we bring that I think is really special. I feel incredibly lucky to have this amazing group of people around me, and our clients are equally as wonderful.
How many people are on your team?
There are eight of us. We’re a mix of contractors and employees. I see that as being the future of work. In this changing world, which is so dynamic and interesting, young people who take risks and challenge the status quo are the ones who will really excel. As a society I think our expectations and motivations are changing. The more we can engage in purpose-driven work and see business as a force for good, the better.
You hold some governance positions as well – tell us about those!
I was elected twice as president of the UCSA in 2012 and 2013. My decision to run came out of an ‘aha moment’ in my final year of uni. I decided to pursue university governance instead of a corporate career because I wanted to help students do well in those years straight after the earthquake. Following that, I've been appointed on the Arts Centre Trust board and I have a half-dozen other governance positions as well.
What do you enjoy about those leadership roles?
I've been privileged enough to develop a skill set that means I can join those tables. Being a young woman in a leadership role has only highlighted the importance of diversity. Not just to tick boxes, but to actually help an organisation do better and thrive. It's also an opportunity for me to transfer my abilities to other young women coming in to these roles, to ensure our future leaders have the skills and support they need.
What motivates you?
I've always been driven to achieve equality. I grew up in post-apartheid South Africa so I witnessed the effects of inequality firsthand. That's why went into law, because I wanted to change the world. But in my time at UC I realised that the most powerful form of change can happen within your local community. If you can drive equality and inclusiveness there, that can be more valuable than being a cog in a big international machine. In my life, I’m constantly assessing how I can add the most value. That's why I started my business, so I can help others get heard and get the funding they need.
It sounds like your decision to follow your passion has been a good one!
I think it’s so important, especially as a new graduate, to find a path where you have a purpose so you can add fuel to the ambition you have when you leave uni. It comes back to that idea of ‘business with purpose’. If you feel like you're adding value with the work you do, you'll be more engaged. My advice for young people is: don't lose your grit and determination, and don't be afraid to challenge the established pathways. Trust your gut, and follow that.