Nora Hanson is a senior at Colby College, double-majoring in History and Spanish, with absolutely no previous lobbying experience. Yet in her first month of lobbying as an intern with The Borgen Project, she got co-sponsorship for two acts that could make a huge difference in the lives of the world’s poor. Her early success is a clear example of how passion can overcome the notion that government is inaccessible.
Within her first batch of lobbying emails, she reached out to Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY-7) by following the automated form on her website, and a legislative correspondent in D.C. got back to her within 24 hours. “Their efficiency and their work was a huge part of this, of my success,” Hanson said.
Communicating back and forth with the D.C. correspondent, Hanson had confirmation within one week that Rep. Velázquez would be co-sponsoring two global poverty reducing pieces of legislation: the Protecting Girls Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act and the Global Health Innovation of 2017 Act. Yet the bulk of Hanson’s work wasn’t the many follow-ups with the DC office, it was the careful research she did before ever reaching out to them.
After watching The Borgen Project director Clint Borgen give a “Lobbying 101” course, Hanson was motivated to do more research on her leaders.
“The idea that I should get to know my leaders as people really changed my process,” she said. She began to focus on “who these people were as people, and what they might be interested in, and what they might be passionate about.”
After researching Rep. Velázquez, the previous legislation she’d supported, and the current legislation in the Senate, Hanson chose the Protecting Girls Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act and the Global Health Innovation of 2017 Act. She believed that they appealed to Rep. Velázquez, who had a history of working toward emphasizing equality, education and a focus on community.
The Protecting Girls Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act aims to help the one in four displaced children who no longer have access to education, especially the women and girls whose risk for social and economic inequality skyrockets without school. The Global Health Innovation Act hopes to bring affordable and safe health technologies to the developing world.
It didn’t take long for her research to pay off, and now the co-sponsorship is “just a matter of her staffer officially putting her name on it,” Hanson said proudly.
After completing an internship with child legal services in San Francisco the previous summer, she had witnessed the struggles faced by children from across the globe being detained after crossing the Mexican border in the U.S. Her passion for helping under-served, underrepresented people was growing, and her experience that summer only left her wanting to do more. “Sitting there updating files just didn’t feel like enough,” she said.
Part of that drive seemed to result from her education. “My coursework tends to make me very solution-driven,” Hanson said, and The Borgen Project gave her the opportunity to “be on the front lines interacting with people, taking a really active role in helping.”
When she got the internship, she said she was “counting down the days before I could get to work and start trying to make a difference.”
And the difference that lobbying can have was immediately apparent in her communication with her correspondent in D.C., Jacob Hochberg.
“It’s nice to know that the leader’s offices are reading everything,” she said. “They were so willing to listen to me.”
Hanson is meeting next month with Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1), already pushing forward to make a greater difference and meet with more leaders. As for the future, she said, “I’m excited to continue following what The Borgen Project does even after I finish my internship…watch them make an impact, and grow, and affect politics.”
Making an impact, growing, and affecting politics aren’t simply elements of The Borgen Project, but of every individual intern, volunteer, and constituent who works with it. Nora Hanson is one shining example of how effective outreach can be.
Learn more about volunteering opportunities with The Borgen Project here.
– Brooke Clayton