Skip to Content
May 21, 2024

Promoting the Power of Lived Experience

Written By: Liz Baker and Maria Kisumbi

HU’s first Public Engagement (PE) strategy brings together the work of our policy, communications, and journalism teams under one portfolio and highlights our common, underlying belief: that the people who are closest to the issues we work on should guide the solutions, and we should use our platforms to elevate them.

When we began creating our very first Public Engagement (PE) Strategy, we wondered how three very distinct teams: Independent Journalism & Media; Policy & Government Relations; and Strategic Communications; would come together – and what a PE strategy encompassing all of our functions might look like. However, it was clear from our first conversations that at the heart of our policy, communications, and journalism work is the same underlying belief: that the people who are closest to the issues we work on should guide the solutions, and we should use our platforms to elevate them.

On the PE portfolio, we approach our day to day work with a combination of optimism and pragmatism. Since HU’s founding, we have seen change happen in the fields of peacebuilding and human trafficking & forced labor: we’ve seen donor commitments and collaboration, policy changes, and a newfound focus on these issues. We’ve supported these signs of real progress and we also recognize how difficult it can be to influence these fields. As HU has increased investments in racial justice work, we’ve learned from and partnered with colleagues leading that work as well. We see how the systems we work in are very exclusive and often the same people are considered “experts” while people with lived experience or who are directly affected by our issues are often afterthoughts in the institutions we seek to influence .

Our new strategy acknowledges the challenges of this work, while also bringing together our three programs in common cause to better cultivate the conditions for peace and freedom in a way that is consistent with our organization’s strategy and values. Together, we identified the systems where Public Engagement can be most impactful in promoting HU’s mission and values: international institutions, U.S. foreign policy, and public interest media.

In developing our strategy, we sought to balance how we work with other portfolios and programs and how we as a team operate in our own systems. We will continue to work closely with our colleagues in Peacebuilding, Forced Labor & Human Trafficking (FLHT), and Racial Justice & Equity (RJE), recognizing that often specific interventions through policy, strategic communications, and journalism can have important effects on their work. But we also know that through working together as a Public Engagement team, we can impact the broader systems we work in, which play a critical role in our mission. Right now, we balance these interests and will continue to adapt our approach according to what we learn, hear, and observe.

As we release this strategy, we are immensely grateful to all who have walked alongside us throughout this process. As part of this process, we also engaged in futures thinking, considering scenarios in 2038, because we know the world is changing rapidly and we need to understand how we can adapt and anticipate potential changes in our systems.

One consistent theme we heard from partners and colleagues is that PE has an opportunity to utilize our various forms of capital–our funds, our voice, our access, and our capacity–to amplify those closest to the issues we seek to address. We hope this strategy will move us towards a world where policies, norms, and narratives center people’s lived experiences with conflict, exploitation, and injustice.

We use cookies for anonymous analytics collection in order to improve this site for you. By clicking on ‘Allow’ or on any content on this site, you agree that cookies can be placed. For details, view our privacy policy.