Nick Horslen, our amazing grassroots volunteer from the Reading RESULTS group, recently attended the Results International Conference 2014 in Washington with his wife Julie. Have a read of his blog from the conference, hear his highlights and find out why you should consider coming along next year.

From the outset I was excited at the prospect of meeting the Results teams from all over the world. I’d seen and read a lot on the web, Facebook and on twitter about RESULTS partners in the US, Canada, Australia, European countries and from Asia and Africa as well, but it was great to actually get the chance to meet them. I was also excited to hear the volunteer advocates from Zambia and Kenya would also be joining the conference, as I was keen to see hear their first-hand experiences of the issues RESULTS work on, namely nutrition, preventable diseases and inclusive education.

Nick Horslen stands outside the World Bank Head Quarters in Washington.
Nick Horslen stands outside the World Bank Head Quarters in Washington.

As someone who has been a supporter of RESULTS for over two years now and an active grassroots campaigner for over a year, I felt I had a good grasp of the issues they work on. What I didn’t fully appreciate is the depth of experience across the world and the degree of respect held by external groups and global leaders. 30 years of commitment and leadership is certainly having an impact.

It is not possible to cover all the sessions and activity from the conference, so here is a short summary of some of my highlights.

One the most memorable sessions of the conference has to be Jim Kims key note speech. To hear Jim Kim the president of the World Bank talk so lucidly and openly with Joanna Carter as if they were lifelong buddies and “peers” was amazing. It was also great to see him take ownership of a task from one of the grassroots audience who asked a question and only to find out that Jim Kim had fixed the issue by the end of the conference. The level of respect there was tremendous. I do hope others watch the video recording of these sessions to see how authentic and important the relationship RESULTS has with the World Bank, USAID and GAVI. You can watch these videos again here.

I came away from these sessions knowing that although I only do my small bit as part of grassroots group in Reading, three or four hundred other delegates from all over the world are doing there bit as well. If we all do our bit and work together we will carry on achieving some amazing things.

Another big take away for me as someone who has a strong interest in extreme poverty, global health, global education and nutrition but also strong interests in equality, economics, technology and business, was to hear the US speakers talking of their own challenges in their own country. Speakers like Marian Wright Edelman and Travis Smiley with their impassioned views of the American legacy of racial issues and inequality was particularly memorable. As such a large and diverse country it’s easy with so many issues and the lifestyles of different people, to be hidden from the reality of their own counties poverty. There were things in those presentations as an English guy trying to focus on the developing world that I didn’t think I needed to hear and the presentation style was certainly different to what we see or expect at the UK national conference. However, just by being there and seeing the way the US grassroots people responded made me realise that just like in southern Europe where the develop world meets the developing world and where historically the past meets the future, there is still too large a gap for all sorts of people to fall into if the masses choose to look the other way.

On the more international agenda, I became an instant fan of Julia Gillard. Her leadership of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) looks set to be a turning point. As the ex prime minister of Australia, she was incredibly experienced and well prepared but at the same time remarkably human and personable and clearly up for the challenge. The Pledges that she went on to gain in Brussels the following week were amazing! It was nice to know that Dan from RESULTS UK would be attending the conference to keep up the momentum right until the announcement from Lynne Featherstone.

Nick and Julie Horlsen and US grassroots advocate meet CongressmanDerek Kilmer.
Nick and Julie Horlsen and US grassroots advocate meet CongressmanDerek Kilmer.

One of the real highlights of the conference as you would expect is the lobby day. The planning and enthusiasm was impressive. I was with a great group from the Washington State on the west coast. The Washington state team were very welcoming of Julie and I and the team was made up of everyday people, students, family people, care workers, doctors and business workers. I formed a very close bond with two or three of them, people I know I will keep in touch with again and certainly meet the next time I go to the west coast. Our Lobby day started with the UK team, we all went together to meet at the World Bank in the UK Government office where the board members and their team work. We met with Phil Stevens an Advisor to the executive director and shared information in both directions on Nutrition for Growth, the GPE, TB and general UK and World Bank policy and structure. Clearly there is a lot of change going on right now at the World Bank with UK leadership being critical in so many ways. It was a very interesting meeting.

The highlight of the lobby day was meeting their Congressman Derek Kilmer. He was a very well informed guy. He also clearly remembers meeting many of the lobby team on previous lobby days and on their home ground back in the north west of the USA. It was my pleasure to find he had studied in Oxford and knew my home town well. He clearly is something of an anglophile as well as being a very patriotic American. He took the messages we all delivered verbally in his stride and he reflected back his interest and understanding very well. He was only too happy to take on board their request to support their push towards more support for poverty initiatives globally and in the US. He even posted the picture he had taken of us on his Facebook page the same day. Have a look here. 

My experience from the US lobby day was quite different to the UK advocacy day at Parliament and Whitehall, partly because of the different surrounding but also because it seemed so much more tied to the legislative day to day and detail due to the way the American system is structured.

It now a couple of weeks since I got back from the conference but my enthusiasm for the experience remain strong. The shared belief that we all have a role in eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 is now resonating stronger than ever before thanks to my trip to Washington. If you can save up and free up some time next summer, do it, you won’t regret it!