Associate Director of Government Relations | Nature United
I'm guided by a single question: “Where can I have the most impact on the issues that excite me most?”
Tell us about your work.
I’ve been advocating for people and planet as long as I can remember. Most of my career has been focused on policy solutions at the intersection of human rights, climate change, and local economic development at the international level. Today I feel very privileged to be working on the same intersection of issues here in Canada.
As a kid, I organized marches and press around issues of homelessness and municipal corruption in my neighbourhood. Years later, I found myself travelling the world and getting involved in international human rights issues. This included several years of involvement with the global movement supporting democracy activists in Burma, and months working with ex-child soldiers and -sex slaves who’d recently escaped the Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda. Eventually I came to realize that my freelance writing on these issues was invariably buried deep in the papers that opted to publish them, so I decided to take a Master of Public Policy in Berlin, Germany. This led to a career leading advocacy efforts for civil society and intergovernmental organizations, a stint as a political staffer on Parliament Hill, and a run in the 2021 federal election.
Recent learning curve?
I’ve been learning how to support Indigenous partners’ engagement with the federal government. As GR professionals, our instincts are often to drive, and to drive hard. But working with Indigenous leaders and partners requires restraint and humility. It entails a commitment to listen and learn, to yield space, and to take direction from Indigenous leaders themselves. It also involves recognizing the diversity of Indigenous realities and viewpoints, and never assuming that one policy solution applies to all Indigenous peoples and communities. Most importantly, it requires that we never speak on behalf of our Indigenous colleagues.
Book recommendations for professional development?
Frank Luntz’ "Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear" is a must-read for anyone fascinated by how word and language choice shape the way people relate to your message. I’m also just digging into Robert A. Caro’s “The Power Broker” - though I may be retired by the time I’m finished (it’s over 1200 pages long!). Meantime, The Economist is a daily staple in my diet.
Final thoughts to share with peers?
Tackling the biggest challenges involves aligning interests and building partnerships across interest groups, communities, sectors, and industries. If you’re not looking for opportunities for creative disruption and for working with ‘unusual suspects’, you aren’t doing it right.
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For details, contact Elaine Larsen Wells, GRIC's Chair of
Professional Development & Partnerships, email@example.com.
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