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Making change happen through public policy: Claire’s story

Claire, an MSc Public Policy graduate and Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Filton and Bradley Stoke, talks about how the course has impacted her career.

A woman (Claire Hazelgrove) speaking on stage at a Labour event.
Before studying at Bath, Claire worked at the Tony Blair Institute and spent time on working on both of Barack Obama's campaigns in the United States.

Claire Hazelgrove is Community & Political Engagement Director at TPXimpact and Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Filton and Bradley Stoke.

She talks about her time at Bath, studying a MSc Public Policy.

Tell us about your career

I’ve been campaigning from a young age, having been involved with the Make Poverty History Campaign when I was still in school back in 2005. I've always worked at the intersection between the public and institutions that can make change happen at scale, because I think both aspects of that really matter. I’m a Labour parliamentary candidate and I also work to support local government, regional government and charities all over the country in effective community engagement.

Throughout my career, I have done a lot of work with policy, but I hadn’t been involved in the shaping of it and that was the part that I really wanted to learn more about. I looked around at the type of courses that were out there. I'm a practitioner, so when I saw the MSc Public Policy at Bath was designed around people who are working full time, it really appealed to me.

Why did you choose a master’s degree at Bath?

I didn't want to step out of my practice - I wanted to stay at the cutting edge, but I also wanted to learn more. With this course, it was very clear that it was a practical, applied degree.

An aspect that really jumped out to me was the in-person residentials on campus, where we would get to know the cohort and teaching staff and that felt really exciting.

Another element I particularly liked was the public policy portfolio option within the degree, which was really different from any other course I saw anywhere in the country. I could see this course was going to stretch and test me in ways that would be relevant to the path that I'm on, in seeking to shape policy, so that felt really relevant.

How did the course help you develop professionally?

The course is rigorous and thorough. It really enabled me to think through not just the theory and the policymaking theory, but also the practical realities.

A master’s wasn’t necessary for career progression for me - and it absolutely isn’t for anyone wanting to get involved in politics - but that wasn't really my goal. For me, it was really useful studying and thinking about how to apply and critique policy.

I found it really helpful learning how to articulate and link the intent of policy coming out of government with the goals and ideology. Having a more thorough, in-depth understanding of the different levers that policymakers have and the trade-offs and constraints, was really valuable.

‘I could see this course was going to stretch and test me in ways that would be relevant to the path that I'm on, in seeking to shape policy, so that felt really relevant.’
Claire Hazelgrove MSc Public Policy graduate (2021)

What was your experience of studying at Bath?

There was a great sense of community throughout. We had a WhatsApp group that was very active and really supportive. It was a ‘no stupid questions’ sort of space.

It was also great to get to work with other departments throughout the course. My portfolio supervisor was from the Department of Education; it was absolutely brilliant to have the ability to access experts from across the University. The support and encouragement from the teaching staff was second to none.

What is a typical day for you at work?

In my day job, I run a brilliant team of expert practitioners, who help to bring people's voices into the heart of change - community engagement experts, public participation experts and community organisers. So, on a daily basis, I’ll be working with organisations to provide strategic guidance and advice. We try to help them to remove barriers to engagement and bring people together to shape the change that they believe in with and for those they serve, which involves policy in different ways throughout.

In my ‘non-day job’, as a Labour candidate, I'm constantly out there talking to people to get a better understanding of what local and national issues matter to them - and the impact of current government policy on their lives.

There's a lot of synergy between the two, in that it's all about people fundamentally. Policy and politics are all about people at the end of the day.

What have been your stand-out career moments?

I've been fortunate and have worked with brilliant people and have been around moments that have mattered. When I started the course, I was working at the Tony Blair Institute, focusing on public engagement around policy solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing policymakers today.

I spent time on both of Barack Obama's campaigns, in the United States, and being a part of a movement like that is incredible. Having been part of a number of election campaigns here in the UK too, I don't think there's anything quite as purposeful as that feeling of fighting for things that you believe in.

I've also run a lot of campaigns, advocacy and training sessions for grassroots volunteers. It’s really powerful seeing that moment when the light switch goes on in someone's eyes and they realise that they can make change happen, no matter their background.

What are your future plans and aspirations?

Earning trust and hopefully winning the next general election here in Filton and Bradley Stoke, so that I can help make positive change happen for and with my community. If I'm fortunate enough to be elected, the future will be about delivering that through policy, legislation and work in and with the community.

I'm really glad that I have done this master’s degree. It has got to be a really conscious decision, particularly if you’re doing it alongside full-time work, but do consider it.

We all benefited so much, not just from our own practice and the experience that we brought into the room, but also what we learned from each other’s different experiences of working in different organisations.

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