Wrapping Up an Amazing and Productive Summer!

It’s hard to believe this internship is coming to an end. I have learned so much since I started. I remember the first video we had to watch for orientation: Food Mythbusters’ “Do we really need industrial agriculture to feed the world?” At the time, I thought I knew much more than I actually did, and that I was better at community organizing than I actually was. I have become much more skilled in time management, especially when coordinating with many other people’s schedules. My Google calendar has been invaluable and I have definitely become addicted to mapping out my day. That is especially helpful for my time management of classes and professor’s office hours this upcoming semester.

Along with more effective time management skills, I have also learned to be a much more independent learner. I’m better at knowing when to ask questions, and when to use trial and error to figure out the best method.

I’m very excited to bring my new found organizing skills back to Brandeis with me. I feel so much more prepared to successfully lead Poverty Action Coalition throughout the next semester, which will be packed with activities and events. I’ll also be a Half the Sky ambassador at Brandeis, which will mean a lot more organization on my part. I can’t wait to use engage in conversations and activities revolving around issues I’m passionate about, especially now that I can speak knowledgeably on many more issues than I could before the summer started.

Now that I have completed my internship, I would love to get involved with different aspects of campaign organization. So much more goes into running campaigns than I realized. I would really like to work a bit with the communications department or development within an organization, to learn a bit more about a different kind of membership outreach. I would also like to recruit a much larger crowd to join Brandeis’ Poverty Action Coalition and network with other groups to help do that.

One of the most important aspects of community organizing is to always connect and ask questions when you’re speaking with people. This goes for everyone – people you spoke with two days ago, to family, friends, and especially those who you’ve never talked to before. Sometimes it feels very unnatural, but the trick is to remember that this is what you do everyday – you connect with your friends and family, and conversation peaks curiosity. Organizing works the same way, and sometimes it really helps to take a step back and remember the person you’re talking to is a unique individual, with unique things happening in his or her life, and in all likelihood would love to talk to you about them.

Additionally, in community organizing as with any field, connection is vital not only to organize, but to network! This is important not only for job-hunting, but also for getting ahead with whatever campaign or project you’re working on. You never know when someone may have a connection that can help you with what you’re working on, including the members who fund and support your organization – they are often times your most essential and most willing resources and volunteers.

Before I started this internship, I definitely put a lot more emphasis on individual actions when it came to social justice-related grassroots organizing. I now see that grassroots organizing is a lot more structural than I realized. When it comes to social justice actions, connecting with other people is key. When you are speaking to another individual who feels the same way that you do about a particular issue, it is important to connect on that issue, and to talk about its importance. This is why I’m so excited to lead a viewing of the new Food Mythbusters short video being released in September – I can’t wait to connect with others about their concerns with issues involving big agriculture.


Post #2: Midpoint Report!

The first half of my internship has been fantastic. It has gone by fairly quickly, and I have been having a great time, while also working very hard. So far, it is everything I was looking for in an internship.

Making phone calls in the office!
Making phone calls in the office!

Over the past four weeks, I have already learned so much about non-profit work and community organizing. I have learned about how to best recruit people for action and to keep them engaged, and how to help those people lead and take action. I have definitely learned how to effectively plan, and to make goals that I can reflect on and grow from. This summer, I set out to become more motivated to work even harder for causes I believe in, and this organization has definitely done that for me. Everyday, I repeatedly discuss with co-workers and the public why opting for tap over bottled water is so important and every conversation I have reminds me why I care so much about the issue. Unsurprisingly, my communication skills have grown immensely throughout those conversations.

My goal to meet more activists around my age and role models who organize the campaigns I’ve worked on has been met on a level I did not even expect. The staff at Corporate Accountability International, as well as my fellow interns, inspire me every day to embrace my passion for fighting against corporate abuse. I’m constantly reading new articles and seeing new blog posts and videos that once again remind me how important it is for us to reinvest in public water systems. For example, check out this video that urges people to tell the National Park Service to phase out bottled water.

Every week, I meet with my supervisor to discuss what we have been doing well, and what we could do better. These weekly meetings help me monitor the progress I have made as an individual, and the progress that we have made as a team. We reflect on our goals, and our accomplishments and compare how well we are doing with how well we should be doing.

Right now, I’m most proud of the progress I’ve made in effectively asking individual members to take action in getting involved in our Think Outside the Bottle Campaign. At first, I was afraid to burden people by imposing on their lives and asking them to take the time to help our campaign. However, through many supportive conversations with my coworkers, I have come to terms with the fact that I’m not burdening anyone. How could I be when in fact I’m fighting for issues that I care about and that others may care about as well?

One of the most important lessons that I have learned at this internship thus far is that it is important to be confident in the work I’m doing, and never to apologize for asking people to help because our cause is worth it. Whenever I get a little intimidated on the phone, or nervous that someone doesn’t have time to listen to what I have to say, I have to remember that they need to listen, and if they don’t have time, or don’t want to participate, they will tell me. Further, I need to convey the fact that I believe in what I am saying. It is easy to fall into a script or a routine, but what I am saying is more than that. This skill is especially important academically, as an essay will become much stronger and easier to write if I remember to write about what I believe in. Furthermore, remembering what I care about and making sure it is always conveyed in what I’m saying and writing, will benefit me throughout my remainder at Brandeis and beyond, as I apply for any and all future jobs and pursue my passion for community organizing.


Check out this awesome article about Western Washington University becoming the largest public college in the US to ban bottled water! Our Think Outside the Bottle Campaign has worked on initiatives there to phase out bottled water so this is really exciting for us!

Showing our support for bottled water free National Parks!
Showing our support for bottled-water-free National Parks!


Challenging Corporate Abuse: Week 1

I am an intern at Corporate Accountability International, formerly known as Infact. It is a non-profit organization that is passionately driven by its mission is to stop corporate abuse of human rights, the environment, and any and all threats to the well-being of the public.  Corporate Accountability International uses strategic measures to pressure corporations through public support to cease dangerous practices.  I am working on their domestic water campaign to challenge corporate control of our water. The two umbrella campaigns within that are Think Outside The Bottle and Public Water Works.

I’m working on a project to support National Parks going bottled-water-free. I will also help to gather support for our organization and cause through methods such as petitions, which is what we did this past week. At the Cambridge River Festival, we obtained over 400 signatures for our Think Outside the Bottle petition, showing support for tap over bottled water, and our petition to urge McDonald’s to stop marketing to children.

This is a poster from our Food Campaign to challenge McDonald's by working to stop them from marketing to children with tactics such as their clown, Ronald McDonald.
Poster from the Value [the] Meal Campaign calling on Ronald McDonald to “retire” from his job marketing fast food to kids.

I found my internship both on Idealist.org as well as through the listserv of my job last summer with the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. I was immediately struck by the human rights focus of the organization. I was also impressed with the extensive application and interview process, which first proved to me that the people of this organization are serious about what they do.

During all three interviews I took part in, I could see how passionate each and every employee was. It is clearly a cohesive group of individuals who work together to make real change happen in an organized and aggressive way. I see more and more proof of this every day I spend with them. In addition to everything I have already learned from all of the organized orientation presentations about every aspect of the organization, I have also begun to get to know a great group of 11 other fellow interns. I have already learned so much about the horrendous practices of transnational corporations, as well as the consequences of their environmental and human rights abuses on a national and global scale. Much of what I learned about corporate control of our water is summed up in this incredibly helpful video produced by Corporate Accountability International called“The Story of Bottled Water.”

This summer, I hope to learn more about the specific consequences of the privatization of water in the hands of enormous organizations that take water as a natural resource that is actually a human right, and bottle it up into a commodity to sell it back to us at thousands of times the cost we should be paying for it. I expect to learn more about this type of manufactured demand, and more about whether huge transnational corporations that are legally bound to make profits for their shareholders are inherently evil, or simply amoral. After meeting with my supervisor, I am also looking forward to becoming a much more effective campaign organizer with more experience organizing individual on a large scale and keeping track of everyone in the most efficient way possible.

–Kate Cohen ’14