Reflections on Civic Engagement With Common Cause New York

Reflections on Civic Engagement With Common Cause New York

Last in a series of posts from Common Cause New York's 2017 summer interns

Last in a series

Editor’s note: Each summer, Common Cause New York is fortunate to be infused with the talents and energy of a group of interns. They help us with research on our issues, organizing our activists, and pretty much everything else that needs doing. As they headed back to their campuses, we asked them to reflect on their time with Common Cause and the challenges facing our democracy.

By Rifat Islam, Prep for Prep Intern

As the youngest intern at Common Cause New York, I did not know what to expect from the office experience. Bright-eyed and curious, I came to the office on my first day and immediately understood the behind-the-scenes environment in good government nonprofits. I was assigned the critical task of maintaining and updating Common Cause New York’s donor database. I cross-referenced the database with a donation list taken from every annual Common Cause Dinner since 2014. It is essential that a nonprofit, people-funded organization have an operable donor database to finance its work. Incomplete entries and data in the database only impede our goal as an organization. And once the donor database is updated, there still is the monumental yet benign task of mailing out annual donation requests, a frustrating endeavor

Besides that, I got to meet and engage with ambitious young adults in selective colleges and universities nationwide. I enjoyed hearing their life stories and watching their talents come to fruition. We worked as a team and made productive use of our time in the office. I was lucky to get to work with our Generation Vote partners in targeting New York City millennials in competitive districts to register and turn them out to vote.

I also did various small projects. I researched the corruption in Long Island politics and got a deeper understanding of why transparency in government is so integral to the democratic process. I took away the lesson that it is up to each of us to be a watchdog for democracy and to hold our elected officials accountable to the people. Also, I scoured the web for the contact information for political candidates. This information will be used to phone these candidates and ask them to fill out a questionnaire. And finally, I worked with the NY Civic Engagement Table to scan the voter registration forms that people filled out under our guidance. This way, if a voter cannot vote because his/her name is not in the poll book on Election Day, we will have proof that this voter did indeed register properly and on time.

Doing this type of work made me more grateful for how hard nonprofit agencies work to secure funding for their projects, and I wish more people would see it. Now more than ever, it is time for people to engage with their government and enact reforms that help everybody.