Digital Gender GapAs the world becomes more technologically advanced and digitally connected, access to technology remains an issue, especially in developing countries. More so, the digital gap between women and men continues to expand, with 300 million fewer women than men using mobile internet, creating a 20% gap. The lack of access to digital devices for these women means being denied essential services including employment opportunities, financial resources, educational resources and medical information. There are several global initiatives trying to bridge the digital gender gap between women and men.


In Kenya, women are 39% less likely than men to have access to mobile internet despite women making up 51% of the Kenyan population. Safaricom, a mobile network in Kenya, therefore created a partnership with Google to offer an affordable smartphone, the Neon Kicka with Android GO, compromising 500 megabytes of free data for the first month. The mobile network believes that empowering a woman empowers an entire community and focuses on the following three barriers: affordability, relevance and digital skills. The company ensured that the price point was the lowest it could be and featured important content including access to health information and educational content to highlight the smartphone’s daily relevance for women. Safaricom recognizes that many women are not familiar with Gmail accounts and therefore developed a guide covering the basics of smartphone use.


Togo, a country in West Africa currently run by its first female prime minister, launched a digital cash transfer program called Novissi. Its goal is to provide aid to informal workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, covering residents of three urban areas under lockdown. Many underserved women tend to be excluded from COVID-19 relief digital cash transfer programs launched by governments since they either do not have access to digital bank accounts or are uninformed. Through Novissi, women receive a monthly sum of $20, whereas men receive $17, to support the cost of food, communication services, power and water. The three additional dollars allocated to women account for the fact that women are more likely to be informal workers and take care of a family’s nutritional needs.

Wave Money

In Myanmar, Wave Money has become the number one mobile financial service, with 89% of the country benefiting from its agents. Since Wave Money deals with 85% of rural areas in the country, money enters and leaves from nearly every state and facilitates familiarity with the service. The financial service created a partnership with GSMA Connected Women to allow greater access to financial services for women. Through this partnership, women are encouraged to run Wave Money shops in Myanmar, providing them with extra income even if they live in very remote areas of the country.

Telesom Simple KYC Account

It can be challenging for women to acquire the identity documents necessary to open accounts with service providers. In Somaliland, Telesom created a simplified know-your-customer (KYC) account, allowing women that do not possess an ID to sign up for mobile money services. The service solely requires a name, date of birth, image and contact details, favoring accessibility and reducing the digital gap between women and men.

Equal Access International Partnership with Local Radio Station

In Nigeria, women and girls are denied access to technology due to the fear of moral decline that accompanies the widespread culture. Equal Access International recognizes the need to address societal norms for women and amplify women and girls’ voices. In an effort to do so, Equal Access International partnered with a local radio station in order to create a show that tackled cultural taboos and promoted women and girls using digital technologies. The episodes last 30 minutes and cover weekly themes including common misconceptions about the internet, internet safety and moral arguments regarding women and the internet.

Closing the Digital Gender Gap

Despite a digital gender gap that exists between women and men, organizations around the world are making an effort to foster a sense of inclusion and empowerment for women and girls to become familiar and encouraged to take on the digital world that is constantly emerging.

Sarah Frances
Photo: Flickr

From media and TV references to news stories, awareness of human trafficking has become the center of public attention, particularly in the past year. Undoubtedly, this is an issue that has touched every community across the world. According to the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, human trafficking is the “recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.” The U.S. State Department currently estimates that there are approximately 24.9 million victims worldwide.

With human trafficking, or modern-day slavery, becoming more prevalent today, here are some things one should—and should not—do when advocating for victims of human trafficking.

How to Properly Support Victims of Human Trafficking

To properly support victims of human trafficking, one must familiarize themselves with the signs of human trafficking. Information and knowledge are essential tools in combating this profoundly complicated issue. The more one understands human trafficking schemes, the better one can identify trafficking acts and dispel many of the common myths surrounding human trafficking.

It is also important to advocate for policies that invest in local community building. Research suggests that the prevention of human trafficking is most successful when it focuses on creating cohesive communities and minimizing individuals’ vulnerability. Lack of access to essentials such as housing, food and emotional needs are significant indicators of vulnerability. The best way to prevent preemptive conditions for human trafficking is to support and advocate for policies that invest in the community through crime prevention, healthcare, urban development and improved education.

Moreover, reporting a tip to the proper authorities if one believes someone may be a victim of modern slavery is critical to stemming human trafficking schemes. It is better to be overly cautious than to fail to report active trafficking. If you are in the U.S. and suspect someone may be a victim, call the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or report an emergency to law enforcement by calling 911. You can also text HELP to BEFREE (233733), or email [email protected].

What to Avoid When Advocating for Victims of Human Trafficking

Do not be an uninformed consumer. Unfortunately, many of the products that you may use every day, from groceries to clothing, may have been produced from coerced labor. Check out these resources from the Office on Trafficking in Persons to calculate your “slavery footprint” and determine which goods are produced by slave labor.

Furthermore, awareness campaigns should be paced to avoid social media crazes. While it may seem like a good idea to utilize social media platforms to raise awareness and spread information, it may inspire fearmongering and misinformation. In July 2020, a major conspiracy theory swept over social media platforms, alleging that famous furniture company Wayfair was involved in human trafficking due to suspicious product names and unusually high prices. The sudden interest overwhelmed the national trafficking hotline and stretched their resources thin, without any particular evidence. Not only did this overwhelm the hotline, but it also prevented authorities from properly investigating the situation as social media attention often alerts traffickers to move their operations elsewhere.

It is important to remember that trafficking is a deeply integrated issue in societies that stems from various causes. Despite its complexity, prevention and reduction are very much in reach, especially if individuals become more aware of trafficking practices and how to combat them safely. For more information and resources, see the U.S. State Department’s website.

Angie Bittar
Photo: Pixabay

USAID and UNESCO are working to change gender normalities in Zimbabwe by normalizing men’s contributions to household activities that are traditionally perceived as feminine. Equal division of domestic duties leads to improved child health and nutrition, as well as advancements in women’s rights. These social benefits are instrumental in alleviating poverty in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe and Gender Norms: An Overview

A country of 14 million, Zimbabwe has recently faced declines in public health, education, infrastructure and standard of living. Of the population, 63% of households live in poverty. Government policies and climate issues hamper farming and impact food insecurity. In addition, the country has a high burden of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and maternal and childhood disease.

Women traditionally hold an inferior position in Zimbabwean cultures, which are often patriarchal. Women often work for no pay in the home or in subsistence agriculture; alternatively, they perform low-paid wage work. Women cannot own or claim land except through their male relatives or husbands.

Gender Norms and Food Security in Zimbabwe

USAID and UNESCO are working to transform gender normalities in Zimbabwe, and the positive effects of these efforts extend far beyond women’s rights. Empowering women and normalizing men’s participation in the domestic sphere effectively increases the household labor force and children’s access to nutritious food. In rural Zimbabwe, one-third of children are malnourished, largely because of gender norms that lead to unhealthy feeding practices for young children.

As USAID reports, there is a close connection between women’s lack of assistance in the domestic sphere and child nutritional status. USAID wrote, “In a typical day in rural Zimbabwe, a mother must collect water, search for firewood, make a fire, cook and wash dishes, repeating this cycle for every meal. She must also spend a large proportion of the day tending to the family’s crops. Mothers simply do not have the time in the day to focus on all their responsibilities, including the childcare and nutrition necessary for the healthy growth and future productivity of their children.”

USAID’s program Indoda Emadodeni (“A Man Among Men”) holds monthly dialogues in which advocates, or Male Champions, challenge social norms and discuss the benefits of expanding men’s roles with both traditional leaders and the community as a whole. Participants in the program reported great pride in their domestic skills, including cooking, feeding and dressing infants and doing their daughters’ hair. The fathers enjoyed the closer relationships that they developed with their children. 

The program has yielded excellent results in many areas. A survey found statistically significant improvement in behaviors and support like fetching water and firewood, childcare, taking their wives to medical (including prenatal) appointments and cooking. There was also a 52% increase in joint decision-making among spouses. Rather than being stigmatized, these supportive and beneficial behaviors now elicit high praise in their communities, “uyindoda emadodeni” which translates to “you are a man among men.”

UNESCO’s Impacts

The United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization agency is also running a project entitled “Challenging constructions of masculinity that exacerbate marginalization of women and youth,” in which the organization focuses on women’s empowerment through male engagement with gender issues. By conducting trainings and dialogues, the program leads men to reframe masculinity and reconsider their behavior.

One participant, Tichaona Madziwa, described how he “started to see [his] wife as a partner, a shareholder in this household…[and] really started to respect [his] wife’s decisions and perspectives—something that was not considered the norm.”

As he began to cook and care for his daughter, his relationship with her grew stronger. Madziwa, like the other program participants, found that the change of perspective greatly benefited him and his family.  

Normalizing men’s performance of domestic work lightens women’s workload. This, in turn, both empowers women and improves child nutrition. These USAID and UNESCO programs are effectively addressing the issues of both food security and gender normalities in Zimbabwe.

– Isabelle Breier 
Photo: Wikimedia

Social media is changing lives around the world, helping old friends reconnect and allowing people to share dancing cat videos with millions. People spend hours each day on social media platforms, using them to stay informed, share opinions, post photos, sign petitions, link articles and much more. There is potential to build incredible momentum for a movement and truly engage people by using social media platforms for advocacy efforts.

Your personal sharing, liking, retweeting and posting may seem like they aren’t creating enormous ripples of change, but research has found that content shared by individuals is shared 25 times more and receives eight times more engagement than content shared by organizations themselves. Social media has the ability to amplify a message, allowing great organizations to be introduced to new people and mobilizing communities to give to or advocate for a certain cause. So how can individuals focus social media attention on advocacy efforts and better the world through their news feeds?

Sharing is caring
The community of people you’re friends with or who follow you are those who care about you and are interested in what you have to say. If you show them that you care by sharing and posting about certain causes, they are more likely to engage with that content than if it was posted by an organization on their feed. Since people actually know who you are, things you share and post come off as more trustworthy and real. To this effect, find articles and organizations that matter to you and highlight their efforts. You are the most relatable person for people engaging with your social media, and that can powerfully increase mobilization.

While they may not always seem effective, intentionally using hashtags can really increase how many people interact with posts. Hashtags create networks of posts, linking them together into a common thread, and this is a great way to reach diverse groups on social media platforms for advocacy. Creating a specific hashtag that a person or organization always uses can help people learn about causes you’re passionate about, and adding information about an issue to a trending hashtag can help spread your message locally and globally.

Turn some heads
A visual appeal can really catch and keep people’s attention. One study found that seeing photos and infographics greatly influenced members of Congress, and others interacting with your postings and shares are equally as interested in nice visuals. By adding photos or cool graphics, your content will better capture people’s attention and enable you to use social media platforms for advocacy. Attaching images can create a 150 percent increase in retweets on Twitter and bring in an 87 percent engagement rate on Facebook, which is great news for mobilizing efforts!

Take that social media work offline
Social media is great for connecting people, but gathering your community offline is powerful, too. Use social media platforms for advocacy by creating events, gathering donations, sharing information and planning meetings, then take that advocacy into the physical world. Online calls to action such as signing petitions and contacting Congressional representatives can transform into in-person meetings with government officials either individually or at town halls, and mobilizing people for your cause can mean sharing through word of mouth or posting physical copies of an infographic around town. Building online engagement into a tangible movement can have an immense impact.

Rather than aimlessly scrolling through Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Facebook, Tumblr and other social media platforms, infuse some world-improving efforts into your feed and use those social media platforms for advocacy. With such amazing tools available, it is important to increase the intentionality of our scrolling and harness social media platforms for advocacy.

Irena Huang

Photo: Flickr

As more youth in Cambodia become politically aware, the country has seen significant strides by these individuals in advocating for change.

Such advocacy makes sense in light of changing technologies. As Ou Ritthy, the founder of a Cambodian discussion group, states: “Youth have two things: Information — from social media — and smartphones. They are more independent in terms of information.”

Not only has this allowed Cambodia’s youth to become more educated regarding governmental matters, but it has opened up opportunities for political networking. Through applications such as Facebook, these individuals can now unite through common interests. Together, they can plan rallies, organize volunteer efforts or simply instigate debate.

Furthermore, these efforts are having a bigger impact than ever before. As the New York Times reports, “Two-thirds of the population is under 30,” meaning youth in Cambodia now have the greatest capacity to bring about political change.

Student Thy Sovantha serves as one example. Sovantha created a Facebook page and posted Youtube videos supporting Sam Rainsy, the opposing candidate to Cambodia’s current prime minister Hun Sen, during the country’s 2013 elections. Her actions resulted in thousands of followers.

Sovantha is not the only one who opposes Sen, however. Youth protests were widespread during the 2013 elections, and efforts against his rule continue to this day. Cambodia’s elections later this year will be the final determinant of his power.

“The image of Cambodia in the international community has been damaged because they can see that…Cambodia is moving to dictatorship,” comments Ren Chanrith, a member of Cambodia’s Youth Resource Development Programme.

Regardless of Cambodia’s future regarding Sen, it is certain that youth in Cambodia will continue to have a big impact in what lies ahead for the country. This demographic change, combined with new technology, puts Cambodia’s youth at the forefront of politics.

Genevieve DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr

Feeling down or uneasy? It could be time to donate to a worthy cause. A growing body of evidence shows a strong correlation between poverty and multiple forms of mental illness, including depression. The good news is that the inverse is also being proven true; reducing poverty improves mental health, not only for those receiving aid but also for those who provide it. Here are some of the most recent findings on how advocacy cures depression:

According to, people in the U.S. have become 5 percent less happy over the past decade, despite average household earnings increasing in the same period of time. The same study determined that Norway and Denmark were the happiest countries, compared to America’s position as the 14th happiest.

“I don’t think Denmark has a monopoly on happiness. What works in the Nordic countries is a sense of community and understanding in the common good,” Meik Wiking, CEO of Copenhagen’s Happiness Research Institute stated by way of explanation. The effects of poverty on depression were shown to be quite clear: the unhappiest countries, which include Liberia, Yemen, Rwanda and Syria are all among the poorest on earth.

The implication of the study seems to add another line to the old adage: money may not be able to buy happiness, but it may be able to buy happiness for someone else in need. Science is discovering that the giver also benefits—one study of 846 people from the American Journal of Public Health found that the act of helping others creates an increased tolerance to stressful life events.

Altruistic acts, such as raising awareness for charitable causes, have been shown to result in numerous psychological and physical health benefits including reducing stress, maintaining a positive life perspective and even boosting longevity.

Crick Lund, University of Capetown psychologist and head of the international consortium called PRIME (Programme for Improving Mental Health Care), is another key researcher in determining how advocacy cures depression. He has dedicated his career to providing mental health treatment for people living in low-income and low-resource areas. His research on the link between poverty and depression is being conducted across five sub-Saharan countries in Africa and is expected to show early results by 2018.

The next time the blues hits, it may be worth considering getting the squad together to volunteer at the local shelter or make a donation to a nonprofit such as The Borgen Project. Since advocacy cures depression, not only will it make life better for someone who truly needs it, it will make the giver feel great too.

Dan Krajewski

Photo: Flickr

What is an NGO
What is an NGO? The acronym NGO stands for non-governmental organization. With only slightly more specificity, an NGO is any organization, usually non-profit, that operates independently of a government.  Contrary to common usage, the NGO title does not necessarily imply the organization works abroad; NGOs can be local, national, or international.

But apart from these literal definitions, what unique roles do NGOs serve that government aid organizations and corporations do not?

The innumerable NGOs that are working on international humanitarian issues suggest that NGOs can adapt quickly and respond to changing needs faster than government organizations which require executive and electoral approval for action. The Global Journal published a list of the top 100 most influential and effective NGOs, acknowledging famous groups such as OxFam, PATH, and Medicins Sans Frontiers.

These groups’ acclaim comes from consistent and well-organized delivery of critically important services such as medical care, environmental education and advocacy, and human rights protection.

But all NGOs are different and some are met with intense criticism for lack of transparency in budgeting or effectual action. When donating money or looking for work in the NGO world, it is always important to do your research about how much of the group’s budget goes to administrative costs and how much goes directly to the cause you care about. The website Charity Navigator is a useful resource for this.

Another important critique of NGOs is that all too often organizations staffed with Americans and Europeans come into developing nations with action plans that don’t fit the local context and end up adversely affecting their target populations. This, however, is not an inherent flaw of NGOs but rather a symptom of failing to acknowledge the importance of local expertise within the NGO framework.

Because NGO funding commonly comes from developed nations, a particularly effective model for NGOs includes using local in-country staff to plan and implement programs on the ground while working with an international board focused on fundraising, outreach, and strategic group planning.

It would be untrue to claim that NGOs are immune to political influence simply because they are not directly connected to governments; NGOs’ funding and even daily operations are subject to political approval.

For example, NGOs working to bring amnesty to political refugees will often face intense political adversity, and even violence during their in-country work. But unlike government organizations, NGOs typically have more flexibility to defy a political status quo to pursue what they believe to be important social change.

– Shelly Grimaldi

Sources: Grant Space, Miratelinc
Photo: The Design Inspiration

Importance of Foreign Aid
Here at The Borgen Project, we are often asked why foreign aid is important. Foreign aid can save the lives of millions of people living in poverty around the world. It addresses issues such as health, education, infrastructure and humanitarian emergencies.

Foreign aid is a broad term. In a wide sense, it can be defined as “financial or technical help given by one country’s government to another country to assist social and economic development or to respond to a disaster in a receiving country.”


2 Ways Foreign Aid Helps the U.S.


Creates Jobs


Improves National Security


There are numerous reasons why foreign aid is important to help impoverished countries; discussed below are the six key targets.


Top 6 Benefits of Foreign Aid


  1. Infrastructure: roads, bridges, institutions and sewer systems get built, giving people the ability to be mobile and have access to basic necessities such as electricity and running water.
  2. Agricultural technology improvements: improvements enter the infrastructure within the agricultural businesses within recipient countries.
  3. Education: classrooms get built, teachers receive training and children gain basic educational needs.
  4. Health: vaccinations, mosquito nets, safe drinking water, access to hygiene education and basic sanitation are all brought in.
  5. Humanitarian issues and natural disaster emergencies: life-saving support comes to those affected and possibly displaced due to natural disasters, emergency shelters are built for people affected by violence, and counseling services are made available.
  6. National security: recipient countries can combat terrorism with the help of foreign aid as it decreases poverty, weak institutions and corruption and can help strengthen good governance, transparency and the economy.

Another reason why foreign aid is important is how it fosters a conducive diplomatic relationship between the donor and the recipient.

Impoverished nations receiving aid can eventually become independent and move towards democratic fundamentals with the help of donor countries.

There are hundreds of different donors of foreign aid. One of the most well-known donors of foreign aid comes in the form of Official Development Assistance (ODA).

It is provided by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Development Cooperation. The ODA provides foreign aid to poor countries in the form of grants and loans.

The ODA is important to impoverished countries as it provides specifically the materials needed to build effective infrastructure and expand educational programs and the access to schools. Additionally, it provides efficient responses to humanitarian emergencies.

One of the most well-known and largest providers of foreign aid is the International Development Association (IDA), which is part of the World Bank. It has 173 shareholders that provide grants and loans to 77 countries around the world, 39 of which are located in Africa.

The main goal of the IDA is to reduce inequalities, increase economic growth and improve the living conditions of those in poverty. These goals are addressed as IDA funds are given directly to the sectors of education, water, sanitation, agriculture and infrastructure.

The IDA provides little to no interest on its grants and loans and allows for a grace period of up to 10 years. It also allows the recipient country to make debt payments of up to 40 years.

Since 1960, the IDA has provided $312 billion in investments in 112 impoverished nations. In the last three years alone, there has been an average of $19 billion in grants and loans.

Foreign aid truly makes a difference to people living in poverty. It provides access to basic necessities and provides people essential conditions for living a peaceful and secure life.

Kimber Kraus

Photo: U.S. Navy

How to find jobs in advocacyAre you a recent college graduate looking for your first full-time position? An experienced professional looking to make a difference? Or perhaps a high school student wanting to buff up your resume? Well, understanding how to find jobs in advocacy may prove beneficial for you.

Advocacy is the action of generating public support for or recommending a particular cause or policy. One of the ways in which The Borgen Project makes a difference is through advocacy.

By teaching citizens skills on how to communicate with their government, The Borgen Project is able to both generate support for and recommend making global poverty a higher priority for U.S. foreign policy.

Here are five ways on how to find jobs in advocacy so you can begin a fulfilling, challenging career of improving people’s lives:

  1. Find your passion.
    Is there a cause you really believe in? Is there a problem you would like to address? Is there a topic you could talk about for hours and hours? Most employers, whether it’s listed in your cover letter or spoken about in an interview, want to know what motivates you to join their team. They want to know your passion because a passion-less person doesn’t make a good advocate, now does it? Don’t think too hard about it, though.While some peoples’ passion may be something specific, like woodcutting or kite flying, yours could be a broader goal such as helping other people.
  2. Reach out to local non-profit organizations.
    There is a very high chance that your community has at least one non-profit organization operating within it. While that non-profit organization may not be directly linked to advocacy, the people volunteering or working there may be able to direct you to other non-profit organizations more advocacy-geared. And if there is a link to advocacy, then you’re in luck.
  3. Search for jobs.
    In this day and age, the internet is your friend and the perfect place to start your advocacy search. You can look at popular websites like, or to find the perfect advocacy position for you. Most advocacy positions will be posted by non-profits organizations, local governments and lobbying firms.
  4. Volunteer.
    If you’re not having any luck landing a paid position, consider volunteering. It will not only beef up your resume, but it also has the potential to lead to a paid position in the place you are volunteering. In your volunteer position, your supervisors can get to know you, see how motivated you are to the cause and perhaps find a more permanent fit for you on their team. Building these connections can lead to positions you never even thought possible!Additionally, most non-profit organizations operate under a very tight budget so the majority of advocacy positions may be volunteer anyways. Take The Borgen Project for example–we have only 2 full-time and 4 part-time employees but have around 300 volunteers.
  5. Utilize your networks.
    A recent survey revealed that 85 percent of all jobs are filled through networking. LinkedIn is a great resource that connects you a network of over 400 million people. You can also utilize alumni networks, family and friend networks, and networks found through volunteering or reaching out to organizations. It is also important to keep in mind that networking is not always about meeting as many people as possible, but it is also about meeting a few well-connected people who can vouch for your ability and credibility.In the future, these types of connections can refer you to other well-connected people.

While this list is not exhaustive, hopefully, these tips on how to find jobs in advocacy will benefit you in your search.

Alexis Pierce

Photo: Youth Advocacy Programs, Inc.

Be an advocateAn advocate can be loosely defined as someone who publicly supports a cause. On a more focused note, the Citizen’s Committee for Children of New York defines an effective advocate as one who influences public policy and laws by using different strategies and information to encourage leaders to take action.

Many individuals would like to do their part to make a difference but are not sure where to start. Here are a few tips on how to be an advocate:

Know exactly what you are advocating for.

Conveying your message becomes easier when you immerse yourself into the cause and gain a thorough understanding of what you are supporting.

Garrett Swink, an advocate who uses social media as his primary advocacy tool, immersed himself into his cause by leaving the comfort of his desk and diving into the issues he was passionate about. In an article published by Connectivity, he said that immersion “provided [him] a better understanding of [his] audience and a clearer idea of how to expand it.” Although he advocated for a political figure, the same idea can and should be implemented when advocating for a cause.

Use technology to your advantage.

Online tools, such as social media platforms or YouTube, can help you be the best advocate you can be. In our modern world, technology allows you to spread messages efficiently, effectively and to large numbers of people. Know what technology your audience is mostly likely to use, then rev up the shares, likes, tweets, and posts to get the word out about your cause.

One advocate, Marvin Sapp, wasted no time implementing such modern methods. Sapp utilized the power of technology during his advocacy event by instructing attendees to contact their elected officials about his cause right then and there. In his most recent event, more than 3,500 people whipped out their phones, iPads, tablets and other devices to submit emails to their respective elected officials about supporting the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

Boil down your issue and focus your message.

A message that is concise, specific and to-the-point will make a more lasting impact.

One Jerusalem’s website is an example of effective advocacy through clear, well-written content. When creating the message, consider the audience and cater your approach to their skill level or interests. Instead of bouncing around between different approaches or angles to your message, be clear and consistent with the research you present, the solution you propose, and the “call to action” you promote.

Show the audience that you care.

An advocate who personally stands by their message motivates an audience.

Advocates who actually care don’t go unnoticed. Real people who care about real issues and solutions captivate perhaps normally apathetic audiences. Let your personal stories, non-verbals, and understanding of the cause shine through–make it known how invested you are about your message and your audience.

These are a few suggestions on how to be an advocate for a cause that is important to you. Effective advocacy can promote social change and justice in more ways than one. Advocacy is an important method of changing the world for a better tomorrow, and anyone can be an advocate–celebrities, local leaders or anyone passionate enough about a cause to do something about it.

-Julia Hettiger

Photo: Pixabay


What to Know: City councils do not have the political power to fund U.S. foreign assistance programs (only Congress and the White House do). The purpose of presenting to your local city council is to raise awareness of an issue and ask the council to reach out to Congressional leaders representing your city.


Two Minute Pitch Format


  • Introduction: State who you are. For example, “I’m Joe Smith and I’m here as an ambassador for The Borgen Project. We are a national organization that works to engage citizens locally in efforts to see stronger U.S. leadership go toward improving living conditions.”
  • Issue Awareness and Local Connection: “Like many U.S. cities, as global hunger rates were cut in half over the past 20-years, Tulsa has benefited from this. The rising number of consumers worldwide has opened new markets for Tulsa companies.”
  • The Ask: “I’d like to ask the Tulsa City Council to send a letter to Sen. X, Sen. Y and Rep. Z letting them know that the council views global development programs as crucial for creating more consumers globally and new markets for Tulsa’s businesses.”
  • Wrap Up: “Thank you for your time.”


  • You need to make the local connection of how global poverty-reduction has created new jobs in America and in your city especially. Live in a small rural town with few companies? Look up where the local farmers are exporting their products.
  • Bring background material. This will be distributed to the council. Include your contact information.

What to Expect? City council meetings are often formal. That being said, they can get very heated and intense. Go in with thick skin. It is rare, but when you’re advocating for something, snarky people might be ready to pounce.

You’re Going to Be on TV: Most city council meetings are broadcast on TV, so have someone record it for you! The meetings are often re-broadcast throughout the week as well. Send us the video! We love to watch these and will possibly share it on the site!


Success Story: Leah Schroeder


Leah is a Regional Director from St. Louis, Missouri who successfully had her City Council sign a letter to Congress to support the International Affairs Budget. Below is her account of her preparation, presentation and takeaways of the experience.

Planning Ahead

I prepared for the City Council meeting by having a short speech ready that I could deliver at the meeting. In the speech, I introduced myself and The Borgen Project, as well as discussed the importance of fighting global poverty and the positive impact that it will have on the United States. 

Nov. 2020

The first meeting was in person, so I arrived early and submitted a citizen’s comment form. The meeting began. I was the only citizen speaking, so I gave my speech in front of the Board of Aldermen. They had a few questions and thanked me for my request. Towards the end of the meeting, they decided that they would be willing to see a draft of the letter. 

Dec. 2020

I drafted the requested letter and had a lot of help revising it from a few members of The Borgen Project team. I sent the letter to the city administrator so he could distribute it to the board members. At the next meeting, the board reviewed the draft and addressed a few concerns that they had with it. Namely, they were uncertain about the International Affairs Budget. 

The board revised and discussed the draft more, but it took three more meetings for them to discuss it formally again.

Jan. 2020 

At the final meeting, they discussed the final draft of the letter, with the goal of each board member reviewing the draft prior to the next meeting. At this meeting, the Board of Alderman agreed to pass the letter, signed the letter and decided to send it at their next in-person meeting. 

Key Takeaways

Overall, I was really pleased with the experience, and I learned a lot about governance. I was surprised with how much time it took for a letter to pass, but I was really glad that the board was very considerate about the issue. I was very nervous before the first time I spoke in front of the board, but throughout the experience, I learned that you must be confident and knowledgeable with your request. 

The most important takeaway that I have from this experience is persistence. I had to be very determined and continue to follow up and speak with the board in order for them to seriously consider my request.