Over the last 50 years, The Public Interest Network has provided hands-on, apprenticeship-style training and professional development that molds new changemakers into expert advocates, smart organizers and movement leaders.
Fresh from fall campaigns driving youth voter registration and turnout, promoting a 100 percent renewable future, calling for a pandemic response that puts saving lives first, and much more, our newest staff took their next steps toward movement leadership by participating in our advanced training series this November and December.
We’ve taken our time-tested training program fully into the virtual world, so that, while working remotely, our current staff benefit from the same high-quality training and support that we’re proud to have offered to thousands of our alumni when they worked for us. Here’s what four of The Public Interest Network’s newest class of changemakers had to say about the value of the classroom and ongoing training they’ve received and its impact on their work and their lives.
Brynn Furey, Environment America Energy Conservation and Efficiency Associate
Among Brynn’s favorite fall highlights:
- Putting appliance efficiency standards on Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s signing desk by helping to win unanimous passage in the D.C. City Council.
- Grabbing attention online for energy efficiency — “the best climate solution you’ve never heard of,” in Brynn’s words — with an appliance efficiency flip book, among other creative and engaging content she designed and promoted.
Brynn credits our training and mentorship program with enabling her to do meaningful work that she loves: “Graduating from Georgetown, I knew I wanted to work with policy to make change. But I didn’t know organizing was a job I could do: talking to people, talking to decision-makers, working to bring them together to do good. It’s crazy that I get to go to work every day — virtually, of course — and actually make a difference. And even though energy efficiency was not exactly my childhood passion, I have completely fallen in love and may even have found my calling.”
Olivia Sullivan, U.S. PIRG Zero Waste Associate
Nearly one year into her work to address our nation’s growing waste crisis, Olivia is preparing to launch the first campaign of her own, Waste is Out of Fashion, in January. “Clothing and textiles are the fastest growing waste streams in America,” Olivia reports. “We’re going to focus first on overstock waste because it makes no sense to overproduce clothes just to end up throwing them away.”
She adds, “At a very basic level, training has given me more confidence. I’ve learned to do some daunting things, such as reaching out to PhDs in textile management or working within and building a big fashion waste coalition. The advanced coalition-building training I just took part in was perfectly timed! It’s been helpful to have the chance to work things out in a classroom setting — and even more helpful to get real-world experience doing important work.”
Malia Libby, Environment America Conservation Associate
Malia’s top priority is Environment America’s Save The Bees campaign, which promotes pollinator-friendly policies and practices. Reflecting on her training experience, she noted, “There’s so much to learn! I’m glad I got exposure to so many different skills. Connecting with new staff from diverse backgrounds and all the learning and practicing we did together helped me to find my voice.”
Malia has put her newfound communications skills to good use, from publishing an op-ed promoting ocean conservation in her hometown paper, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, to drafting a popular blog about how sustainable farming helps give bees a chance.
Zack Szlezinger, U.S. PIRG Higher Education Associate
Amid the pandemic, Zack has been working to make sure college students’ basic needs don’t fall by the wayside. “Around 40 percent of students have experienced food insecurity and between 10 and 15 percent have experienced homelessness during this pandemic,” Zack says. “The federal COVID relief bill currently under debate is a tangible way to fix that.”
Zack’s proudest accomplishment was orchestrating a massive virtual lobby day for PIRG students to advocate directly to their members of Congress in November. “When I started this job, I didn’t even know the process for scheduling a meeting with a lawmaker. The ongoing training and support I get from my staff director made all the difference, though. We’re not done yet, but holding 60 online meetings in one day, running state and national trainings for students on advocacy skills, getting a great reception, and seeing students realize what a difference they can make was incredible. I can’t wait to help students advocate in person sometime soon!”
The most challenging work lies ahead, and the pandemic likely won’t make it any easier. But setting another class on the path to making a real difference now and prime-moving their own campaigns and organizations in the future makes it more than worth the effort.