This year, I’m the summer intern at United for a Fair Economy, a nonprofit organization which fights for a more equitable economy throughout the United States. I knew I wanted to work with UFE as soon as I read their application because of our shared core values and the way those values intermingle with my studies at Brandeis. As an Economics and International and Global Studies double major, I’m equally fascinated by the more quantitative/analytical side of economics and the real-world effects of all those mathematical formulas and theories.
At UFE, we study not just the existence of economic inequities, but also their origins and the practical ways to combat them. UFE began in 1994 under a different name, Share the Wealth. Since then, the organization has grown into a major source for change and has created and met so many goals. Divided into three main branches, UFE works on issues of popular education, responsible wealth, and building inclusive economies.
Under popular education, using healing justice and language justice tools, we host trainings and workshops for leaders of all different kinds of movements to reimagine the economy and how to change it. Those leaders are given all the knowledge and experience they need to go out and train others on topics of economic inequities. Popular education itself is actually an educational technique which far predates UFE, in which participants are all on level ground, sharing experiences and conversation rather than being taught by a single person left in charge. As UFE says, “With popular education, ordinary people define their own problems and apply the lessons of past political successes and failures to their own situation.”
Responsible Wealth is a network of individuals who fall in the top 5% of wealth and/or income in the U.S. and have a vested interest in solving the inequalities and the inequities of our economy, knowing that everyone suffers when our systems aren’t fair. Participants in Responsible Wealth work and speak up for things like progressive taxes and corporate accountability.
Inclusive Economies is a UFE project working in many states, but is largely focused on North Carolina and changing policy there to reflect a fair state-wide economy. Central to Inclusive Economies are Raising Wages NC and the Living Wage Network, and they highlight UFE’s methods for collaboration and community involvement when it comes to movement-building.
So far as the UFE intern, I’ve gotten to explore so many different fields under the amazing guidance of Sara Sargent and Richard Lindayen. I’ve learned about donor relations through the lens of database entry and gotten to work on communications projects in which I research data and history for outgoing media.
In terms of small steps that lead to bigger steps, and the idea of what change looks like, something I’ve learned very early at UFE is the value of the individual. Our full-time staff is only eight people, which is crazy when you think of just how much gets done at UFE every year. It’s very common to hear people say “the personal is political.” I think part of how UFE makes the enormous impact that it does is that it focuses on working with individuals as well as the collective. They’ve seen time and again that conversations and healing done between human beings is often what leads to changes in deeply-rooted inequalities and inequities.