Grassroots Spotlight: Yaseer Khanani
Q&A with Yaseer Khanani, RESULTS Group Leader for Los Angeles and Orange County
Q. How did you first get involved with RESULTS?
A. I saw RESULTS on VolunteerMatch, but I wasn’t sure what advocacy was. I reached out, and right off the bat, I got to go to the RESULTS International Conference as a REAL Change Organizing and Advocacy Fellow. The people there were so amazing. Before that, I wasn’t really aware of the way different government policies impacted me. But RESULTS gave me a whole new perspective.
Q. How so?
A. I learned that if you want change, first you need to see what members of Congress are doing and build connections. They are the ones who make policy. If we’re only screaming at them all the time, they won’t hear us. We’re never going to come to a common goal if we’re not listening to the other side and seeing where they come from.
Q. What’s been your most memorable experience on Capitol Hill?
A. I’m always really interested in people – who they are and why they do what they do. My group met with a foreign policy aide to talk about global education issues, and the first thing I did was thank her for what she does. What the aides do for members of Congress behind the scenes is really important. I also wanted to find out what motivates her. So I started off the conversation that way and heard about how her family was in the military and that’s what brought her to foreign policy. At that point, she became a lot more enthusiastic about meeting with us. She realized we cared about her as a person and it wasn’t only about getting our issues across. We also used some of the things she mentioned – like national security – when we talked to her about global education. It made a difference.
Q. You lead the RESULTS group for Los Angeles and Orange County. How do you approach your role, especially in this challenging political environment?
A. We focus mainly on RESULTS’ global poverty campaigns, but with everything going on right now, I think it’s important to give people the space to talk about policy issues concerning them, even if they aren’t directly related to what we’re working on. So for example, we’ve had discussions about climate change and DACA. There aren’t too many venues for people to talk about these things and feel supported. And even though we are global poverty volunteers, we wrote letters-to-the-editor about Medicaid during the healthcare debate this past summer, because everyone felt it was important.
My approach is, if someone wants to become an advocate after attending one of our meetings – even if it’s not with us – I think that’s a victory. The skills you’ll learn with RESULTS can apply to so many other issues.
Q. If someone asked you why they should join RESULTS, what would you say?
A. The people. It might sound corny, but it’s the people who have made my experience what it is. I couldn’t do this alone – none of us could. We’re in this together. We have people in almost every state fighting the good fight. I feel so fortunate for how much RESULTS has invested in me. The reason people stay as long as they do is because of the support they receive from the volunteer community knowing that they are not alone in the fight against poverty.