Lessons learned at the ONE Power Summit

Brandi Geurkink is a ONE Campus Leader at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Here she writes about her experience attending the 2014 Power Summit for the third year in a row and offers her takeaways on advocacy. ONE Campus is an initiative that we started to mobilize college students across the country to learn about extreme global poverty and get more involved in the fight.

I met Bono within my first three hours of being in Washington, D.C. for the ONE Power Summit – an annual conference for the top ONE volunteers throughout the country.

The Summit equips global poverty advocates with the skills and knowledge to improve their advocacy efforts through policy lectures, grassroots organizing workshops, lobbying training, and discourses by renowned political actors. This year, speakers included Bono, the co-founder of ONE, and Sanjay Pradhan, the Vice President of the World Bank. But perhaps the most influential aspect of the Summit was connecting with other inspiring ONE volunteers from across the country. 

As a ONE Power Summit alumna, these are my top 3 takeaways on advocacy:

1. Advocacy work does not exist within a vacuum.

As advocates for programs and policies that protect the world’s poorest people, we fight for incremental policies that collectively have the ability to put an end to global poverty. I cannot count how many times the phrase “you will learn just as much from the people in the room as you will from us,” was echoed by ONE staffers during the Power Summit. This is because effective advocacy work is shared knowledge through dialogue. Conferences like ONE’s Power Summit facilitate pivotal conversations between advocates from all around the world, creating the space for best practices to be learned by one another.

2. Influential actors inform activism

While global poverty activists are passionate about the cause, influential actors speak to the day-to-day complexities of enacting the changes that we advocate for. ONE Power Summits are always packed with an impressive array of actors varying from members of ONE’s executive team, to congressional staffers, and even CEO’s of major partner organizations like (RED). The knowledge and experience of those working directly with policy makers and programs has the power to inform activism in a unique way. In my experience, this not only informs my advocacy in a practical way, but also makes me more passionate about the work that I engage in.

3. Actions speak louder

This is ONE’s slogan and it couldn’t be truer. We are all busy. It is certainly wasn’t easy for me to clear four days to go to Washington, DC as a volunteer, but dedicating the time to make a difference – no matter how small or large the action is – is worth it.

My “action” was meeting with members of Congress on Capitol Hill to ask them to support the Electrify Africa Bill. I had three congressional meetings with my representatives that took only 50 minutes – that’s less than a workout or your commute to work in the morning! Cumulatively, Power Summit participants held 230 meetings. But that’s not all. ONE members from all over the country made 437 phone calls and 3,168 of tweets to their representatives. Later that week, the Electrify Africa bill passed the house unanimously.

It is when activists realize that “actions speak louder,” that we can accomplish anything we set our minds to. This is why to me, meeting Bono was second to meeting powerful ONE activists from all over the country. Without activists who tirelessly do the work of advocating to end global poverty, there would be no ONE campaign. As a third-year Power Summit alumna, I can say with certainty that the “Power” in Power Summit represents the work of the activists themselves who come together to not only do something, but also consistently yearn for ways to advocate more effectively for policies that will improve the lives of the world’s poorest people.