During my internship experience this summer with the National Consumers League, I have not only learned a lot about health policy, but I have also gained a greater understanding for what life is like in a real office job. Before this experience, I have had different jobs and internships, but none that involved a traditional work schedule in an office setting. My internship has given me a much better understanding of how one’s daily activities are structured in a workplace, and how people within an organization or company work together to accomplish the overarching goals at hand. I have experienced how coworkers coordinate and delegate tasks, and how communication occurs effectively between them. Being able to see how a professional organization works on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis will be very beneficial going forwards as I begin a professional career after graduation.
Additionally, I learned how one aspect of social justice work is conducted. There are many avenues for social justice advocacy. These can include grassroots approaches, nonpartisan/apolitical organizations, and the nonprofit advocacy establishment, which would include my organization. I was able to see how an established social justice advocacy organization works largely behind the scenes to push the policies it supports. I learned how they work with like-minded advocacy groups, government and legislative staffers, and various stakeholders throughout society to push their issues to the forefront and get positive policy changes enacted.
I also learned of the challenges that this type of social justice advocacy faces. These challenges can include securing funding for work that often occurs behind the scenes and away from the public eye, and balancing the interests of various stakeholders who often hold conflicting views. All of this can result in advocacy efforts that are not as robust or transformative as many would prefer. It has been really interesting to see all of these tradeoffs, and how social justice advocacy works in the face of these challenges.
In my time on the job, I have made an impact on my organization by helping the health policy department work on long-term projects that they normally would not have time to complete, and by helping them get through a particularly busy time without reducing the amount of work and materials produced. One thing that I contributed to was updating some of the health policy position statements for NCL’s website. Some of them had not been updated in over twenty years, so my work went a long way in helping NCL to revise their content for the present day.
Before I started this internship, I wish I had known more about how the D.C. advocacy establishment functions as a whole so I could have been more prepared for the environment as a whole. My advice for someone looking to get into the field of advocacy, particularly health policy advocacy, would be to continue getting educated, as the people with the most success in this field often have some kind of advanced degree. I would also suggest that they always seek to learn more about the policy area they are advocating for, and to make connections with people from a wide-range across the industry.