The Coalition on Human Needs (CHN) is a network of organizations sharing a similar mission: to help low-income people by advocating for human needs programs in Congress. CHN, focusing on a range of policy issues including health care, immigration, nutrition and education, facilitates the collaboration of its member organizations in two primary ways. First, CHN hosts a bi-weekly coalition meeting, the Friday Advocates’ Meeting, for representatives of the network’s member organizations. At these meetings, attendees summarize the current development of policy issues and build consensus on these issues. Second, CHN disseminates information to its member organizations and the general public through its website (http://www.chn.org/) and by emailing its network of over 60 thousand individuals across the nation. For example, its newsletter, the Human Needs Report, published every other Friday while Congress is in session, discusses national policy issues affecting the low-income population. The office is small, with a full-time staff of four women in addition to a seasonal consultant and me as the sole intern. CHN is located at 1120 Connecticut Avenue in Washington D.C. (a sixteen minute walk from where I am living!).
After only only four days, I am looking forward to the responsibility that will be delegated to me in this internship. Each week, CHN publishes a Sequestration Impact Report, which highlights some specific effects that the sequestration cuts have had on certain cities and states.
I wrote this week’s Sequestration Impact Report (http://www.chn.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Sequester-Impact-June-8dw2-Autosaved.pdf), which required compiling articles detailing the sequestration’s impact and writing short summaries of the stories. After Deborah Weinstein, the Executive Director of CHN, edited my report, it was published on the website, which was exciting. Many of the member organizations use the reports, and it’s very fulfilling to know that I contributed to this publication. On Thursday, I had lunch with my boss, CHN’s Communications Manager, Danica Johnson. The lunch was mostly designed to get to know each other, but we also set up a meeting for early next week to further discuss my internship goals and expectations.
As of now, I know I will be able to voice the specific area of work (either field work, lobbying, communications) and the policy issues that I would like to focus on. Danica also told me that if I’m interested in writing, I could potentially write an article for the Human Needs Report, which would require researching a policy issue (this is something I am eager to do!).
After just a week into my internship, I am confident that I will learn a great deal this summer. Because CHN is concerned with several policy areas, I will not only become well versed in each issue, but I will be able to see their unique overlap and mutual dependencies. In addition, I will observe the strategies that CHN uses to build agreement within its network on how to take action. I will also witness the sensitive and careful approach CHN must take when drafting its articles so as not to offend or infringe upon the missions of any of its many member organizations.
Last summer, I worked as an intern at the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) in Washington, D.C., which crystallized my goal to establish my career in non-profit work. Throughout this academic year, I evaluated several organizations whose missions emphasized social action through political advocacy. Whereas FRAC was narrowly focused on the issue of hunger, CHN’s broader policy agenda has a greater appeal to me. Before being offered the internship, I was interviewed by Danica Johnson, CHN’s communications manager, who contacted my references and consulted with the CHN staff. I accepted her offer and geared up for a great summer!
– Zoe Richman ’15