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Hopelessness is the enemy of justice.” — Bryan Stevenson

I celebrated President Obama’s 2008 election victory in a bar on U Street in Washington, D.C. My friend and I left work early to get a table. My then boyfriend (now husband) joined us later. We sat there for hours in nervous anticipation, until the bar was packed and the crowd spilled out onto the street. When the election was called, we were in the middle of a jubilant mass of humanity, crying and hugging each other and our new friends around us.

The moment felt to me like an arrival…


A (small) dose of optimism

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In July, an acquaintance of mine shared a viral video on Facebook with misinformation about the effectiveness of masks in fighting the spread of COVID-19. I was frustrated to see the video spreading — even more so because the person who shared it is a medical professional.

I almost — almost — commented with a correction. But then I didn’t, fearing that my comment would at best be ignored and at worst cause the person to double down. I felt pretty helpless.

But shortly after that, I received a (small) dose of optimism when my…


Investing in people-centered advocacy can lay the foundation for more comprehensive policy responses to future crises.

By Joanna Mikulski and Katri Bertram

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“We can’t move from let’s deal with the schools…and then let’s deal with the workplace…or long-term care facilities. We have got to focus on a long-term strategy that focuses on everything at one time.”

Whether to re-open schools or workplaces or long-term care facilities in a pandemic requires a difficult balancing act, as the above quote from Dr. Mike Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme highlights.

Policymakers, public health professionals, school leaders, and other stakeholders need to…


What I’ve learned about small steps to big goals in six rocky months

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“It is always hard to believe that the courageous step is so close to us, that it is closer than we ever could imagine, that in fact, we already know what it is, and that the step is simpler, more radical than we had thought: just sitting down to the desk, just picking up the instrument or the phone: which is why we so often prefer to live in an almost world, why we prefer the story to be more elaborate, our identities to be safely clouded…


How does advocacy, communications, and fundraising need to change post-pandemic?

Written with Katri Bertram

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The Covid-19 pandemic is reinforcing in a stark way how interconnected our societies and challenges are. A functioning and prosperous economy and society depends on having a strong and inclusive public health system and political leaders capable of implementing sound measures to control the spread of a virus. Immigration, labor and education policies impact whether the health system has skilled workers needed to respond — and health and safety regulations and equipment in place to protect them. Trade, industrial and development policies impact whether countries can…


Jargon is not only confusing, it’s also disempowering. Guest blogger Joanna Mikulski explains the virtues of using clear, simple language

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YEARS ago, during my first weeks in government, I went to a meeting where representatives from several US government agencies discussed how they could better serve young people. Or at least that’s what I’d been told before going. I understood barely a third of what was said. The meeting was in a language I didn’t (yet) understand: a mix of jargon, some specific to government and some to the group itself.

If you’ve ever joined a new organisation or group…


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It’s Thanksgiving in the U.S., and I’m in the midst of a parenting battle: getting a toddler to say “thank you.” My daughter has accepted the need to say “please” — likely because she won’t get what she wants until she does. But the reward for showing gratitude is less clear, and my insistence apparently puzzling and annoying. I can almost see her thinking, “What’s the point, Mama? I already have my cookie.”

As I stayed home with her on Tuesday (and in fact, tried and failed to get her to say thanks for a cookie), I started thinking about…


To find new ways to tackle a problem, start with shifting the stories you tell.

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The past year has brought an explosion of attention to compelling, emotional and urgent storytelling about the climate emergency. If you’ve missed it, I’m not sure where to begin with getting you up to speed. But you might try podcasts like Mothers of Invention and Drilled, and writers and thinkers like Mary Annaïse Heglar, Emily Atkin, and Sarah Eagle Heart.

For too long, popular stories about our changing climate have been too technical, too distant, and too often told by a small cohort of (mostly…


We need to bring more cross-cutting, diverse thinking and problem solving to today’s most difficult challenges (and fast). How can we make that happen?

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At the end of eighth grade, I received an award for the “best all-round track athlete.” The coach explained with a somewhat perplexed look on his face that I’d gotten second place in the 100-meter, the high jump, and the shot put at the local youth championship. I’d shown myself to be pretty good at a few things that don’t often go together, and therefore I deserved an award.¹

The coach’s apparent puzzlement sticks with me…


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The news is that Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, is to lead a new Office of American Innovation that will “overhaul the government using business ideas.”

Let’s start with some context: this is nothing new. I could outline how every recent President, several Presidential candidates, and the occasional mayor have promised to make government more efficient by infusing it with practices from the private sector, but you can read this Washington Post piece.

It should also be said that government can’t — and shouldn’t — be run just like a business. The public and private sectors are inherently different. Government…

Joanna Mikulski

I’m curious about how to build a fairer, more sustainable world faster. Policy wonk + lit nerd + activist.

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