In this current political environment, not only in the US but in many other countries as well, it is easy to become cynical and inactive. Just hunker down for a while and wait to act til the next election. What point is there in being active now, when nothing seems to get done? With all the shouting going on around me, why should I raise my voice?
I spent the weekend with more than 200 passionate advocates seeking to end poverty in their countries and around the world. They were not biding their time. Instead, they were learning how to be more effective, boning up on the key issues related to poverty, preparing to meet key Congressional leaders and ask them to vote for legislation supporting programs that will help end poverty. I was at the International Conference of RESULTS, a citizen advocacy group.
We heard from national and international leaders like Joyce Banda (former President of Malawi), Marianne Williamson (author of A Return to Love), Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner (CEO of MomsRising), Dr. Takao Toda (Vice President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency) and saw a video that Dr. Jim Kim (President of the World Bank) prepared specifically for this conference. We also heard from several experts on poverty whose expertise comes from having lived it.
In the plenary session and workshops we heard about what is working in the areas of health, education and economic empowerment (session titles included “The Link Between Housing Policy and Racial Wealth Inequality,” “Reaching the Missing Millions to End TB,” “Investing in Human Capital,” “Addressing Ultra-Poverty First”) and also learned how to become more effective advocates (“Turbocharging Your Relationship With US Senators,” “How to Talk to Lawmakers and Their Staff,” “Working with the Media,” “The Art of Candidate Bird Dogging”).
On Monday we divided into smaller groups to prepare for meeting with Congresspeople, Senators, and leaders of global agencies. We practiced our pitches and decided who would make them. Tuesday started with Senator Susan Collins of Maine inspiring the volunteers, telling us, “We each have a moral obligation to help alleviate poverty, both domestically and around the world.” Then we fanned out across the capital, holding more than 100 meetings, loaded with facts and stories to explain what actions government can take now to help bring an end to poverty.
In this climate, does this sort of personal, constituent to lawmaker discussion have any impact? In many ways, it’s the only thing that does. Members of Congress tell us every year that they listen closely in these meetings because they know they are not with paid lobbyists, but with voters who paid their own way to come to talk about the issues they are most passionate about.
Over the past 38 years, the tenacious RESULTS volunteers have convinced the US Congress to expand the Child Tax Credit, finance the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, establish the Global Partnership for Education, support microenterprises, expand the Child Health Insurance Program, and sustain the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Inoculations. Through meetings with legislators and their staff, editorials and letters to the editor, RESULTS work has helped lead to a decrease in child deaths around the world by two-thirds, a doubling in the number of children in primary schools, TB deaths cut in half, reaching 200 million people with microfinance, and over 1 billion people across the globe moving out of extreme poverty.
How can a small band of volunteers be so effective in convincing governments to fund programs that fight poverty? It’s the combination of passionate voices from the grassroots with staff expertise from RESULTS. The RESULTS staff work with supportive members of Congress from both parties to craft legislation. Then they alert the volunteers to start communicating with their Congressperson and Senators about the bill. As a volunteer, I know that my voice will be heard, because I am speaking about a current and important issue, and my voice gets multiplied as it combines with the voices of others around the country who care about the same issues.
For many of us, one of the most valuables gifts we have to offer our world is our voice in a democracy. You can find out more about how you can do this with RESULTS here.
My group went to meet with high-level staff at the Social Protection and Jobs division of the World Bank. We talked with them about our report on ultra-poverty, and what the World Bank can do to fund the types of programs that help people move out of poverty. We gave them a list of the 14 countries with the highest burden of ultra-poverty. We discussed each country on the list, and they told us where the local governments wanted to help their citizens move out of poverty, and the countries where this is not a priority.
“If the local government does not want to do it, we can’t do anything about it,” they said. “We can’t create the political will for the government to address poverty, but you can, that’s what you do. We need your help to build grassroots support for these programs in the countries where the government does not care.”
That’s something RESULTS knows how to do. Just look below at the stream of tweets coming from RESULTS volunteers meeting on the Hill with their members of Congress.
I really enjoyed meeting this group of @RESULTS_Tweets volunteers from Washington state today. Thank you for your passionate advocacy and work toward ending #poverty. #Voices4RESULTS pic.twitter.com/sHgNTNwBzO
— Sen. Maria Cantwell (@SenatorCantwell) July 18, 2018
.@RepBillyLong Great to sit down with your staff to talk about #SNAP & global health. Pls sign the Reach Every Mother and Child Act again. (HR 4022) #voices4RESULTS @RESULTS_Tweets pic.twitter.com/TXjFq69fXW
— Cindy Changyit Levin (@ccylevin) July 18, 2018
"I grew up on #SNAP. I can't see that being taken away from people," says Jackie Halliday, the 1st in her family to achieve a bachelor's and master's degrees. Way to go! #Voices4Results #foodinsecurity pic.twitter.com/7IpOnVsCSd
— Pamela M. Covington, MS2 (@PMCovington) July 15, 2018
— Carly Pildis (@CarlyPildis) July 18, 2018
.@LacyClayMO1 great to see you today! Pls continue to fight for SNAP in the farm bill &please push for the US to support global tuberculosis efforts #voices4RESULTS @RESULTS_Tweets pic.twitter.com/rQQihDBzTA
— Cindy Changyit Levin (@ccylevin) July 17, 2018
— Ann Beltran (@annstil) July 17, 2018
— David Cook (@davidm_cook) July 17, 2018
So grateful for my fellow #voices4RESULTS CA colleagues for the advocacy partnership today when meeting with many members of Congress. Thank you @RepHuffman for your continued support in ending poverty. pic.twitter.com/juV85iycGQ
— lori saltveit (@lsaltveit) July 17, 2018
Thanks to @lisamurkowski for meeting with @RESULTS_Tweets today and for speaking with the women of the Senate at your dinner tonight about the Reach Act (S.1730)! #Voices4RESULTS pic.twitter.com/zCPi8Bwqkp
— Susan Fleurant (@SusanFleurant) July 17, 2018
Here, Maryland @RESULTS_Tweets advocate, Lisa, shares a bill (HR5793 which would allow @HUDgov to give vouchers which encourage families to move to lower-#poverty areas) with a @RepSarbanes staffer. #Voices4RESULTS pic.twitter.com/vr4NdExTm8
— ❤️ Allison Berkowitz ❤️ (@SocialWorkItOut) July 17, 2018
Thanks @DeGette5280 for the work so far. Can't wait to see you champion this bill and bring others along in the fight to save maternal and child lives and end TB. #Voices4RESULTS pic.twitter.com/iN5LiuQ2VF
— Alaina Dougherty (@vivalaarts) July 17, 2018
— Marilee Hill-Anderson (@hill_marilee) July 17, 2018
Thank you to @RepDennyHeck for allowing our @RESULTS_Tweets delegation from Washington to speak with you about SNAP, affordable housing, maternal & child health, AND tuberculosis funding! We are beyond appreciative of your support and willingness to listen. #Voices4RESULTS pic.twitter.com/GMiTpMx0Vf
— Joel Anderson (@joel_anderson43) July 17, 2018