(3) Takeaways from the NCL Experience

My time at NCL will be my framework for shaping my expectations for future jobs and how I approach social justice. Through this experience, I learned the value of communication and collective action. Without them, nothing I worked on would have been possible.

In order to create positive change on the national level, collective action is critical. The likelihood of achieving desired goals increases immensely when organizations and individuals work together and form a unified front before lobbying Congress, governmental institutions, and more. Together, distinct groups can place pressure in different ways and offer diverse perspectives, incentivizing targeted parties to support or even vote in the best interest of the collective. However, this collaboration cannot succeed without effective communication.

This is imperative at all levels, from planned strategic meetings between organizations to my boss laying out clear instructions on what she needs from me as her intern. Some of the ways I have applied this at NCL are: replying to emails in a timely manner; asking questions when I do not understand an assignment or issue; and being direct with what I need and how I can help my bosses. I will take these lessons about the world of work with me throughout my career and incorporate them into future social justice advocacy.

At NCL, I wrote policy statements covering a range of health issues including copay accumulator programs, the monopolistic practices of PBMs, the unfair treatment of pregnant workers, the FDA’s ban on Juul, and the ongoing gun epidemic. In addition, I assisted in breaking down specific issues during lobbying meetings and took notes for my supervisors in meetings they were not able to attend. I also had the privilege of assisting the Director of Health Policy in her testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights. This included helping craft her formal statement, opposition research, and strategy recommendations for the Q&A portion of the hearing. Currently, I am working on expanding NCL’s “Where We Stand” health policy platform by drafting a section on health equity.

One of my most significant takeaways from my experience at NCL was how to approach lobbying. Before starting at NCL, the lobbying tactics I employed were almost exclusively rooted in applying pressure in order to achieve a desired result. However, watching and learning from NCL staff highlighted the importance of maintaining a more balanced approach. While pushing hard and using pressure-based incentives are direct and effective, it is also critical that this does not come at the cost of losing contacts and connections. Before going into a meeting, both parties have researched each other and have likely made their mind up about the issue. In this respect, lobbying can be a formality with a predetermined outcome, and therefore is not something worth burning bridges over. This is something I wish I had known before starting my internship and I will inevitably keep this lesson in mind throughout my career.  

John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, holds up an NCL poster.

For future interns that have the privilege of working at NCL, my advice would be to be proactive about asking for work and to prove early on your ability to produce high-quality material. Oftentimes with internships, bosses do not know what you are capable of and correspondingly will delegate tasks that are not up to personal standards. Illustrating prowess with smaller assignments and then asking to be a part of larger ones not only leads to a more targeted and robust learning experience, but will ensure all parties feel fulfilled throughout this unique and amazing opportunity that WOW and NCL facilitate.