Taking action in community at the RESULTS Conference
“Even separated by this pandemic, when we had to take action apart, we were never acting alone,” said RESULTS Executive Director Joanne Carter in her welcome remarks to the 600 advocates gathered from all 50 states and 20 countries for the virtual RESULTS conference. “When you think about this year, in addition to all the tragedies and the challenges, I hope you also remember all that you did in your advocacy – and the community that was with you.”
Carter’s welcome was followed by Clint Smith, author, poet, educator, and staff writer for The Atlantic, who highlighted the long history of racism and structural injustice underpinning the worsening inequality seen today in the U.S.
“We cannot understand why poverty exists in the way that it does and why it disproportionately impacts certain communities the way that it does without understanding who the people who founded this country were founding it for,” said Smith.
The responsibility of this moment reverberated through every session in the conference’s two-day virtual program. Speaker after speaker, whether on U.S. housing policy or global education, detailed how the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified already-existing inequities in the U.S. and globally — and laid out what’s needed now.
- Otis Rolley, Senior VP for the U.S. Equity & Economic Opportunity Initiative at Rockefeller Foundation: “We can no longer compartmentalize the dual pandemic of COVID-19 and the pandemic of historical and structural racism within the United States…any policy solution has to be one that takes this into account and that is not in denial about the lack of equity.”
- Mehrsa Baradaran, Professor of Law, University of California Irvine: "[Inequality] has to be addressed, and we have not addressed it…We have not done truth and reconciliation. We have not done anything like acknowledging this history. We have to really confront it head-on."
- H.E. Dr. Jakaya Kikwete, former President of Tanzania: "If we are to avoid a lost COVID generation, we cannot only fill our children's stomachs. We need to nurse their brains, feed their immune systems and fuel their growth. Only then will we be able to secure their future.”
- Julia Gillard, Former Prime Minister of Australia and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Global Partnership for Education: "This pandemic has been the largest disruption to education in history, exacerbating an already critical education and gender equality crisis. Many out of school children are girls and many of them will never return to school, or even start school."
Attendees also listened to poetry from spoken word artist Manon Voice, participated in intensive workshops, heard directly from experts with personal experience of federal anti-poverty programs, and gathered together in virtual hangouts. They practiced for lobbying meetings, with new and seasoned advocates alike diligently preparing to make their asks.
U.S. advocates asked their members of Congress to turn the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credits in COVID-19 legislation into permanent benefits, ensure guaranteed multi-year funding for housing choice vouchers, and commit to ambitious funding for global education, nutrition, and tuberculosis programs.
“The inequity on display in this pandemic is not accidental. It is rooted in government policies. And government policy now can and must play a role in fixing it,” said Carter. “In the United States, we’re now hearing lots about ‘return to normal.’ But no! We can’t and won’t accept a normal that has deep inequality and racism and colonialism continuing to shape who lives and who dies, who has access to health, education, opportunity and who doesn’t.”
Over the course of the month, attendees are holding some 300 meetings with members of Congress, the World Bank, and parliaments around the world. As Paul Farmer, Co-Founder of Partners in Health, said, "RESULTS has always been a terrific and empirically informed advocacy organization that helps move this work forward,” and that’s exactly what attendees set out to do in the days after the conference.
- A RESULTS Fellow in Connecticut, had her letter to the editor on global education published not once, not twice, but SEVEN times in different media outlets during the week.
- An advocate in Florida who joined RESULTS at the start of June turned around and led a conversation on tuberculosis with Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) office just two weeks later.
- A brand-new member of Congress in New York not only agreed to join the resolution and letter in support of the Global Partnership for Education but asked if he could attend the pledging conference himself.
- Long time anti-poverty champion Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) took to social media after his meeting with RESULTS advocates to say how inspired and energized hewas by the meeting.
The conference ended with an online celebration featuring an acknowledgment from Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) and a live performance from activist and musician Elena La Fulana.
Most importantly, it ended with a collective commitment to continue advocating for change. “I know sometimes you do advocacy and you knock on somebody’s door and they don’t open it,” said Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of Malala Yousafzai and co-founder of the Malala Fund. “But keep on knocking and ultimately they will open the door.”