The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is a private, non profit organization dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world. Each year, NED makes more than 1,600 grants to support the projects of non-governmental groups abroad who work for democratic goals in more than 90 countries.
This summer, I had the opportunity to serve in the Endowment’s Office for Governmental Relations and Public Affairs; the office is responsible for maintaining relationships and strengthening NED’s reputation with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to advocate for our annual appropriation, as well as all communication functions of the organization.
As an intern, I worked on a diverse set of initiatives and projects. On a weekly basis, my responsibilities included cultivating a weekly update of legislation and hearings of relevance to NED, writing memos for hearings attended on the Hill, fulfilling FOIA requests, scheduling meetings with lawmakers and their staff, and assisting the public affairs team with communications outreach. I also worked on several long-term projects, including an extensive media list and the digitization of NED’s Annual Report .
I was fortunate to attend some of the Endowment’s major events. My first week coincided with NED’s annual Democracy Awards, which honored three defenders of human and religious rights in China. The Endowment regularly hosts discussions, panels, and guest speakers at its office; I attended countless events featuring experts in the areas of democracy promotion and human rights.
My experience with NED has helped refine and further my understanding of the world’s most pressing human rights issues and how the Endowment addresses them by supporting civil society movements abroad. My exposure to government and congressional relations work was by far one of the most valuable takeaways of my summer–the insight into Capitol Hill and the skills gained will serve me well into the future as a public diplomacy professional.
Leah Knobel is a MAIR/MSPR student at the Maxwell and Newhouse Schools at Syracuse University.