Interview with Borgen Project Manager: Amy Pettigrew
For background, The Borgen Project is a non-profit organization that higher prioritizes poverty-reduction bills to congressional leaders through advocating, mobilizing, and educating.
As of recently, the Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act was passed 4 days ago (1/3/2021) which has been a key issue that the Borgen Project has been advocating for since 2019! With thousands of emails and calls being sent to Congress nation-wide, The Borgen Project is a grassroots campaign that continues to teach and push young activists to lead their own civic projects and connect on a more personal level with their local congressmen.
Working with the Borgen Project for a couple of months, I've also had access to one of the BP program managers. Amy Pettigrew is the BP program manager for Regional Directors and has agreed to be interviewed on topics such as what inspired her to start working in global advocacy, her duties being a BP program manager and many other projects besides BP.
How and when did you start working with the BP? What was your starting position?
I found The Borgen Project online and began my time with the organization in 2016 as a Donor Relations Intern. At the office, I helped manage the mailing of fundraising letters to potential donors, processed donations, and kept our volunteers up to date on their fundraising campaigns. After my internship, I stayed on part-time with similar responsibilities while also working for a nonprofit daycare that served low-income families. In 2017, I attended The Borgen Project’s annual trip to Washington, DC to lobby for global poverty reduction legislation on Capitol Hill and moved back to Seattle that summer to work full-time for the organization.
What is your favorite task to do on a “typical day of working for BP”? (Such as interviewing candidates, publishing articles to the blog, etc.)
My favorite task is researching and updating our volunteers about the legislation we’re currently supporting. We might find that a bill is going to be up for a vote. Within a few days, we come up with a call-to-action for our volunteers and supporters to use. This could be a new email to send to congressional leaders, digital content for social media, or we might reach out to specific congressional offices directly to see how we can be of help to ensure the legislation passes. It’s great seeing our volunteers come together to make an impact.
(Since the audience that will be reading these are high schoolers) If they aren’t ready to intern for BP yet, is there anything they can do in their local community to start?
Anyone is welcome to volunteer as an Advocate! If that’s too much of a time commitment, there is no age limit for emailing, calling, and writing to congressional leaders about issues such as global poverty reduction. Look through the website, see what bills and requests we’re supporting and pick one that interests you most. Not only can you do the emailing, calling, and writing to your representatives, but you can mobilize and get your communities involved as well! Teach people how to do the same.
I noticed that you mentioned gender studies being a class in college that got you interested in fighting global poverty, are there any other classes you took that has ultimately aided and led you to work with BP? Why?
I majored in psychology and also took some anthropology classes which helped spark my interest but what really aided in choosing my career in social justice and human rights work was the feminist theory. A factor in feminist theory is exploring the promotion of women’s rights and interests. From that, I researched further how poverty reduction depends on providing women with access to education, employment, leadership roles, healthcare, and more. This, along with an internship at another social justice organization, is what ultimately led me to The Borgen Project as one of the legislative priorities of the organization is legislation that empowers women and helps to fund programs that aid in their ability to thrive and be successful.
Has BP always been a remote workplace or have you worked in BP in-building offices as well? How has COVID-19 affected how you now work at BP?
As an intern, I worked at Headquarters when we were located in Seattle, Washington and I also worked there from 2017 to 2019. Most Borgen Project staff work remotely and have even before COVID-19, so we have some practice with that. I’ve been working remotely from Philadelphia for about a year and a half now. What the pandemic has taught/reminded me is how important it is to get outside, take walks, and get some fresh air (safely and following social distance guidelines!). It can do wonders for mental health.
Does BP have any plans or new initiatives that will be taking when everything returns to normal? Will we be seeing any changes such as more office locations around the country, new recruitment strategies, programs, etc.?
Most of this year has focused on advocating for global health initiatives to combat COVID-19 globally. A goal for The Borgen Project in the future is to write and pass our own legislation that will help combat global poverty. A focus might be a water initiative that would help communities easily access clean water.
I see that Lawrence University, the university you graduated from, is very centered on engaged learning and giving exploration flexibility to its students, do you feel that these work ethics have helped you in the BP?
Yes! Lawrence really focuses on individualized learning. Classes are small and professors take the time to build relationships with their students. One of my gender studies professors made a huge impact on why I decided to work in the field that I do. I was able to take an independent study where I created my own syllabus and could focus on feminist theory more closely. I also learned how to participate, speak up, and lead in class because of the class size.
Are there any outside programs you are involved with that also aid you in being the program manager for BP?
I stay connected with other nonprofits in the Seattle area as well as organizations within the development community such as Global Washington, Oxfam, and USGLC. Many groups host events with guest speakers and experts working on the ground and in the field. I’m constantly learning from others who do similar work.
Thank you so much to Amy for agreeing to do this interview with me. For those interested in global studies/international relations or finding more experience working in non-profits, I really hope that the fellow Young Hearts community feel encouraged to explore and pursue this amazing organization, The Borgen Project!