Campaigning to end poverty
9th April 2014
For more than three decades, RESULTS has educated policymakers in Washington, DC about the need — and the opportunity — to tackle poverty and its root causes. The bedrock of this advocacy campaign has never been a big endowment or an expensive lobbying firm, but rather a network of passionate and dedicated volunteers.
Together these grassroots advocates pressure political leaders, calling for investment and support for effective anti-poverty programs. They don’t do it for a large salary or a fancy title; they do it in their free time, simply because they care.
Volunteers are carefully trained and well-versed on the issues, and they know it’s not just what you say, but how you say it that matters. They take their concerns directly to government decision makers, but they also engage the media on important poverty issues. And that means each of them must be both a passionate activist and a public relations expert.
In their PR roles, they aren’t helping sell electronics, home goods, or financial services — they’re “selling” ideas that can help lift people out of poverty. Their “customers” are the policymakers with the power to turn those ideas into action. And they have no hourly billing rate. Yet they employ all the same proven PR tools — from careful “brand” management to strategic messaging to good storytelling.
Last year our volunteers turned their attention to some of the world’s most devastating diseases affecting people in poverty. The network of advocates called on government leaders to step up financial commitment to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which supports the battle against the three diseases in communities worldwide.
Like any PR pro would, the advocates honed their messages, found compelling local angles, and recruited credible voices on the importance of investment in global health. Armed with targeted pitches, they then approached editorial boards and reporters, as well as writing their own op-eds, blog posts, and letters to the editor in media markets across the country.
By December, editorial boards in every region of the United States had taken up the issue, and we saw dozens of op-eds and news stories nationwide. Well beyond U.S. borders, our colleagues in the ACTION partnership — an international network of health advocates — and other likeminded groups were securing similar media coverage in their own national markets. Uniting this global work was a shared commitment to ending the suffering caused by the diseases.
More than just conveying the facts that justify global heath investments, the media campaign told the stories behind those investments — stories of families protected from malaria, of workers cured from tuberculosis and back on the job, and of men, women, and children alive today thanks to lifesaving HIV/AIDS treatment.
Indeed, these stories are why RESULTS activists get involved in the first place; because they care about the people and communities most affected by poverty and disease. Powerful, personal testimonies of the Global Fund’s transformational impact resonated with editors, the public, and government decision makers alike.
When international leaders gathered in December, they responded to the request of countless activists by pledging more than $12 billion to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The Global Fund hasn’t yet reached its $15 billion goal for the next three years, but it is well on its way. This network of advocates won’t rest until the immediate financial goal is fulfilled and, more importantly, the diseases are defeated once and for all.
Since our founding, thousands of unpaid volunteers from all walks of life have become powerful advocates in their communities, the media, and the halls of government — all in the service of an ambitious goal: the end of poverty. We haven’t got there yet. But by harnessing the power of ordinary individuals, we all have the chance to make an extraordinary difference.
Colin Smith, Deputy Director of Communications, RESULTS/RESULTS Educational Fund