Internship at Save the Children Provides a Real Life Lesson in Civic Engagement and Advocacy

Save the Children

During the fall 2012 semester, I completed an internship in the Department of Public Policy and Advocacy at Save the Children. My work focused mostly on field policy and global development issues, making the experience relevant to my coursework in Beyond the Classroom.

Save the Children’s international policies have recently focused on two topics: 1) Humanitarian assistance in conflict-ridden areas such as Syria, and 2) The international development agenda after the deadline of the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). My first task as an intern was to plan a roundtable discussion for 60 members of civil society, featuring a panel of experts on the United Nations’ post-2015 development framework. In July 2012, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed a High-level Panel of Eminent Persons to advise him on the issues that should be prioritized in the future. The discussion emphasized the importance of input from civil society in contributing to the framework, a real-life example of the kind of advocacy and citizen engagement we learn about in Beyond the Classroom.

Next I was assigned to edit several country case studies. The articles were written by Save the Children country directors about effective field advocacy practices for maximizing foreign assistance. These studies were yet another testament to the significance of advocacy in ensuring that foreign aid reaches the children and families who need it most. With support from the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), the articles were published as a series on foreign aid in one of Save the Children’s blogs.

My largest project was to compile data from Save the Children’s pioneer Advocacy Measurement Tool (AMT), a way of quantifying policy influence in field offices around the world. The AMT is essentially a large Microsoft Excel spreadsheet pre-populated with questions and previous data on advocacy initiatives in each country. They are categorized into health, education, child protection, child rights governance, hunger and livelihoods, health, and emergencies.

Most recently, I wrote a letter to Congress and corresponding press release announcing Save the Children’s support for the new Global Partnerships Act. The legislation was introduced by Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA), a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, on Wednesday, December 12, 2012. Passage of the bill is crucial because it would override the outdated Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and replace it with a modern, streamlined structure for U.S. global development strategy. The letter and press release form are examples of effective advocacy in advancing citizen action.

My experience at Save the Children was unique because I was able to apply what I learned in Beyond the Classroom about citizen engagement on both a domestic (D.C.-based) and global scale. The prevalence of advocacy on children’s issues demonstrates the importance of prioritizing youth in development initiatives. After all, they are the future of society.

24 January 2013

This post is one that I contributed to the Beyond the Classroom Living-and-Learning Program blog at the University of Maryland.

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