Post 3: One phone call at a time | Creating change with NCL

Caleigh standing under an umbrella on a sunny day.
Anyone who’s been to D.C. in the summer knows how hot and humid it can get, but this day wasn’t too warm so I spent a little time sitting outside.

National Consumers League uses every tool in its communication toolkit to fight for the well-being of consumers and bring about positive change. Whether the outreach is online, in-person, on the phone or all three, it’s always a full-scale effort. The goal to champion consumers starts small, but with a strong base.

For NCL, progress often means persuading government officials to respond to law proposals using a consumer lens. At the start of my internship, I called dozens of congressional offices to gather contacts for the staff handling one of the League’s current projects. I passed along the names I found to a supervisor, who would send a proposal with the consumer perspective to the congressional aide in charge.

I have made more phone calls to strangers in a day at NCL than I ever made in my life, but I realize that is what makes us effective. Making change means moving out of comfort zones, meeting new people and trying new arguments. We do not try to better the world and this country by only talking to people who seem to share our views.

Each member of Congress is different, sometimes very much so. We occasionally find allies where we least expect it. Alternatively, people we thought would be on our side are sometimes the ones pushing harmful anti-consumer policies.

Less than a hundred employees work for the League, but despite the small size, we have a huge impact. Recently, the League has pushed hard for changes in the minimum wage in D.C. and developed consumer-inspired adjustments to plans that could hurt people who are the most vulnerable.

NCL has a rich and lengthy history, but I admit I had never heard of it before I applied through this program. Only after I joined as an intern did I realize how far this organization reaches.

As I explore consumer issues, I also explore my organization further. For example, while researching food date labeling for a policy memo, I found that NCL and its partners conducted a key survey on the issue, one I later used as evidence and for background in my project.

Our process is thorough. Experts from different divisions often join forces in an effort to develop the most effective policy that stands the best chance of success. Once you realize the history and strategy the League, noticing its widespread presence becomes less surprising, but no less important.

The logo for NCL's site, which gives advice to consumers about avoiding scams. is essential to NCL’s mission. I have had great conversations with our leading counselor about fraud as well as accessibility.

Another key part of executing our mission, of course, is talking directly to consumers. We do not make assumptions. NCL’s various issues, which we talk about on our website and with our expert blogs, are issues that people have researched in depth. We are a consumer watchdog that helps consumers while giving them the facts they need to make independent decisions.

My colleague who works as the fraud center counselor has an essential role in our communication with consumers. His experience and trustworthiness makes it easy for him to connect with consumers, who he talks to daily over the phone.

The same reliability that our fraud counselor communicates goes for the rest for NCL’s hard-working crew. We are proud to show our knowledge, research, and manners to consumers and the other organizations they stand behind.

Social justice is a team effort and NCL is a wonderful team. Every process starts small, but with the high level of communication here at the League, consumers end up with huge gains.