From D.C. to My Home Office: Entering the Realm of Remote Advocacy

By: Isabelle Legare, M.S. Environmental Policy 2021

2020 was a year of unprecedented events, forcing millions of people to adjust to the realities of living amidst a global pandemic. COVID-19 reconfigured many aspects of my life, one of the most significant being the adjustment to a completely remote internship with Clean Water Action.

Clean Water Action’s national headquarters is located in Washington, D.C., where I had envisioned myself moving to for the duration of my internship. This internship was in partial fulfillment of my M.S. in Environmental Policy through Bard’s Center for Environmental Policy. Because of the public health concerns imposed by COVID-19, Clean Water Action’s national team went completely remote.

Although I was not able to move to Washington, D.C., I felt that there were many valuable skills that I acquired and developed during my time with Clean Water Action. Jennifer Peters, the National Water Programs Director at Clean Water Action, was my direct supervisor and current mentor. Jennifer currently serves on my Capstone Committee. Throughout my internship, Jennifer provided me with valuable feedback and constructive criticism that pushed me to concisely and clearly communicate my thoughts and ideas.

 

As a Graduate Research Fellow, some of the specific tasks that I was responsible for included:

  • Tracking environmental legislation through Congress
  • Drafting and revising factsheets for public audiences
  • Compiling Congressional staff members contact information and organizing in spreadsheets
  • Participating in weekly and monthly conference calls
  • Attending Clean Water Action’s events (webinars, movie screenings, advocacy events)
  • Conducting research projects as needed by the national team’s staff
  • Meeting with various Clean Water Action staff members from offices around the country

 

These tasks enabled me to develop skills on both professional and interpersonal levels. The development of my unique voice was my most substantial area of growth during my internship. In academic writing, it is easy to fall into the pattern of maintaining a robotic, static voice. However, when in the advocacy sphere, it is essential to understand your audience and how they may receive your message.

 

Jennifer put me in charge of drafting some of the factsheets that Clean Water Action provides to relevant stakeholders and members of Congress. Most of the writing I did for Clean Water Action was geared towards a general audience with minimal existing knowledge on the topic being discussed. In order to break down complex information so that it is more accessible, I needed to understand the topic(s) at their foundation. Although a seemingly straightforward task, this posed a significant challenge for me.

 

The advice I was given by Jennifer was to practice speaking my ideas out loud before typing them out, as if I were speaking to a close friend or family member who does not have a solid grasp on the subject matter. Having a more casual, conversation-oriented take on communicating important information to those who have minimal prior exposure is .

 

In addition to communicating complex ideas, my internship with Clean Water Action allowed me to refine my literature research skills. My academic background gave me the foundational skills to refine my searches for the most relevant results. My research done while working for Clean Water Action required me to explore a series of complicated government websites, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Register, to get information on relevant environmental legislation and regulations. Although seemingly straightforward, interpreting and understanding both the terminology and the legal frameworks surrounding environmental legislation can be complicated.

 

My experience working as an intern for Clean Water Action provided me with a valuable set of skills that I was able to develop with my academic background. During my time with Clean Water Action, I was able to connect with and get to know many staff members from the different Clean Water Action offices around the country.

 

Although I was not able to have an in-person internship opportunity with Clean Water Action, I believe that the experience and the skills I acquired and developed, and the connections I made, were incredibly valuable.

 

 

About isabellelegare