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Global Development Institute

Katie Acheson

After a decade of work in community and grassroots organisations in Africa, America, Europe and Australia, Katie Acheson recognised the need to elevate her theoretical knowledge. It was not a decision she entered into lightly and she spent two years researching to determine the university that would best equip her with both a solid theoretical base and the space to reflect on development practices around the globe.

 After interviewing high level United Nations staff, organisational leaders in the international development field, and spending hundreds of hours on Google she chose The University of Manchester because of its exceptional academic reputation, acclaimed academics and diversity of the program and field research.

Acheson said the diversity of students, who came from over 100 countries, along with the academic program propelled her learning farther than she had even hoped.

“I learned more about myself, different cultures and my field than I could have in any other country simply because of the breath of the student body and the excellence standards of the University of Manchester,” she said.

Following her masters in International Development (Social Policy & Social Development) in 2012 she felt energised and informed to tackle her passion and knowledge to a bigger field. 

She is the Chief Executive Officer for the New South Wales umbrella group Youth Action and provides leadership, and direction to an organisation reaching 1.25 million young people aged 12 to 25 years. She has increased the organisation’s media profile, fostered strategic relationships with government and strengthened community engagement projects.

Youth Action looks at youth health, out of home care, youth homelessness, juvenile justice and youth disability advocacy and played an important part in getting young people politically engaged in the recent marriage equality plebiscite.

Acheson says she has always been interested in amplifying the voices of young people:

“I started working in youth programs when I was a young person myself. The ability to change and grow when supported appropriately makes working with young people full of possibilities. Young people are side-lined from decisions that impact their lives and it is an incredible gift to walk alongside young people who take back the power and advocate for change. I truly love my job - I can’t believe it can do it every day.”

Acheson is a key player in issues for young people in Australia. She is also the chairperson of the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, the national umbrella organisation - representing 4.3 million young people. She continues to lead the group with passion and determination, despite the federal government withdrawing its funding after 30 years.  She is the co-founder of NAPS – an organisation that combines statistical experts and social development specialists to produce high-level strategic and statistical data analysis to deliver solutions to real-world problems. Her work with NAPS takes her reach out of Australia, working in Indonesia, Cambodia and with the UN.

For anyone considering doing a masters after already starting their career, Katie has this advice:

“Give yourself the space and time to work out what you really want to grow in. Choose the course that will increase your passions, push you further and bring back the wonder of the world. Once you know what that is, find people who are working with that topic and get their recommendations for where to go. Try to make room in your life to really get the most out this time. You have worked hard for a long time, now take a break and refresh your mind with great new things. It is definitely worth it”.