Raising Our Collective Voice: A Fireside Chat with Sam Daley-Harris

Founder and President of RESULTS, Sam Daley-Harris sat down with Carol Welch from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at the Global Washington Conference on November 13, 2013.

Daley-Harris had an interesting transformation from his educational background to where he is now at RESULTS.  He earned a bachelor’s degree in Music and never really considered a career focused on global poverty or climate change until he was invited to attend The Hunger Project in the late 70’s.  He left that experience hopeless, thinking that hunger was inevitable and there was not much to be changed in the world.  The only thing that would be achievable is self-control, which he was able to transform into a vision and goal to achieve results.

In 1978 when he was a participant of a discussion on food nutrition at a high school he learned the importance of political will.  He asked the group of thousands of students who their member of Congress is, and only a small percentage knew.  This showed the lack of political will that exists and how the citizenry needs to be empowered to understand how to exercise their will to make change.  If students cannot name their representative in Congress how can they exercise their voice?

This was the genesis of RESULTS, which has created a successful model on advocacy for not-for profit causes.  The successful model, as laid out by Daley-Harris, is its “deep structure of support”, which he describes as working with various different lobbies and creating ongoing expert discussions to facilitate group support.  The key to this success is finding an organization that gets you out of your comfort zone to promote advocacy.

With the growing trend of “Click-tivism”, where people can be at home activist and support causes at the click of a button, Daley-Harris says to keep going with that, but do not stop there.  Advocacy requires more than staying comfortable with clicking on your computer.  The problem is not on the activists side but on the organizations side as well where they are only looking for activists to click for their causes since they perceive these people as naïve and unsophisticated.  Change needs to occur in treating the activists like adults if any organization wants true results.

With so many causes and problems facing the world the load can become very overbearing and difficult to work for.  Daley-Harris highlights on this and explains that the issue of hopelessness and discouragement is the main reason why people or organizations lose sight of their vision and cannot keep up with all the causes.  The key to fixing this to recognize the problem, stay passionate on every issue, and pay attention.

Additionally, it is important to never count anyone out as a potential ally or supporter.  Just because someone in Congress is on the other end of the political spectrum does not mean they are a lost cause.  The ability to sit down with them and relate to things in common is the best way to advocate for a cause and make the change needed.

Daley-Harris ended the conversation with one of his favorite quotes from George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman:

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, the being a force of nature, instead of a selfish, feverish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me, it is a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”