In mid-November, I received a request from a friend and RESULTS staff member to write a letter as a new board member and the vision that I have as a volunteer advocate, considering a significant focus on global poverty and my experience living and working abroad for USAID/Zambia.
When I had written my letter, I wondered if other advocates might find some inspiration in my reflection. In December, that letter was published in a book for the new Fellows and now I’d like to share it with you. As such, here is my letter to the RESULTS Fellows of 2020/2021
May you also feel emboldened in your opportunity to shape the democracy of your community, wherever you may be living. You and your voice matter and you, too, will and can make a difference.
Dear RESULTS Fellows,
As one of the recently-elected RESULTS Grassroots Board Members, I am excited to welcome you to RESULTS in your new impactful roles as Fellows, RESULTS advocates, and leaders. While 2020 has certainly been a turbulent year, you are about to embark upon a period of immense growth, challenges, successes, and inspiration, but also find a new community of activist friends in the RESULTS family. We can’t wait to meet you and support you.
I say challenges because advocacy is not easy. It requires strategy and tenacity, along with a sense of unwavering hope that you will find and build the right stakeholders — fellow advocates influencing policymakers — to support your mission to make the world a better place, often for those you may never meet.
Since I joined RESULTS in January 2014, I’ve celebrated advocacy wins that took six months — the eviction moratorium to keep people in their homes during the pandemic — and up to 13 years — the READ Act (Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act in) in 2017. Those were BIG accomplishments! So, be prepared to be persistent in what matters to you and step outside of your comfort zone.
As a Millennial, taking risks and being bold has defined my life. In 2017, I moved to Zambia to work on foreign aid with USAID (United States Agency for International Development) at the U.S. Embassy for a year. While there, the READ Act, which I’d helped advocate for, arrived in the form of funding and influence in how we shaped education programs. During my assignment, I worked on health; economic development, environmental conservation, and infrastructure; democracy, human rights, and governance; and education projects.
I’ve never had a lot of money, but I’ve always had a voice, and RESULTS taught me how to use it.
The advocacy you do will bring critical awareness to your communities and educate policy makers on the importance of foreign aid dollars. You will also help the people struggling for housing, healthcare, and food security here in the US. People will call you and me the next generation of activists and leaders, but we are not the next generation of leaders — we are the leaders of today!
We need you now, not in the future, as part of this movement to end poverty and systemic oppression.
Those of us who hold privilege must learn to acknowledge it, grow, and harness it to do good for those who experience the barriers of ableism, classism, homophobia, racism, sexism, xenophobia and so much more. I long to see a country with a universal healthcare system, paid leave, a living wage, equitable distribution of food and housing, affordable higher education systems, and far more kindness.
But, I am just one woman and I cannot do these things alone. Representation matters.
Our movement to end poverty is stronger with your voices as part of the conversation, and we are grateful you are here.
As you embark on this journey, I invite you to be bold. Ask questions. Share your ideas. We’ll learn from you, just as we’ll be sharing our lessons along the way too. I look forward to working alongside you in this movement.
Lindsay K. Saunders