These last two weeks I have been increasingly assigned to work directly with the director of National Consumers League. As the director, she works on many issues regarding consumer’s rights and safety, ranging from hotel cancelation period, increasing regulations on table saw safety, better laws to protect a woman’s right to breastfeed in public, to discouraging automakers from lobbying to rollback fuel efficiency standards. To be able to work on these different issues is an great opportunity for me to better understand not only the values and the extent of work the NCL cares about, but also how the process works in a small and dedicated entity like NCL.
Among the issues that the interns have been working on, such as those mentioned above, none of them really fits into any department we have at NCL, except for Public Policy perhaps. But that department does not handle these issues. And to be honest, I have no idea what Public Policy is specifically working on right now. Instead, to have the director of the whole organization delegate these issues to interns and personally oversee the research, the report and communication process is amazing in its own way. How are the content of issue selected? It is actually a very random but up to date process. Usually, the director would find these issues in the daily news. These could be big and obvious and receive a lot of attention from the media and the public, or they could be very elusive and only appear in a column in the local newspaper. Regardless, when she assigns them to the interns, we treat them with the same standard of intensive research, expressive statements and in a very timely manner.
Many might think it is inefficient, and that she should have department heads work on these issues instead. They maybe right, but the NCL is a small organization with about twenty employees in total. So department heads may already have too many responsibilities on their hands already and may not be able to catch up with that is going on. Instead, here the interns not only get intimately within the system and are mentored by the person with the highest position in the organization but we are also working with the latest issues and are not hindered with the bureaucracy of chain of command. This way the NCL can have the resources to both deal with long-term battle like health care, child labor and other work extensive issues and have a say in sneaky matters that many may not even realize are there but have a significant impact on our lives.
Honestly, this is a very effective strategy that I have never heard from other organizations. We are participating in on all fields when it comes to protecting consumers and people’s rights in general, which is much broader than I have imagined when I first applied to NCL. And every step we make in the process ensures that the view the NCL holds are scientifically and empirically supported, helping consumers make informed choices.