Co-Director of Policy and Advocacy
United Neighborhood Houses
USING POLICY TO SHAPE CHANGE
Fast fact: Tweet him @douglaskev
Kevin Douglas leads United Neighborhood Houses’ state lobbying, policy analysis and media engagement efforts with a focus on immigration, workforce development and adult literacy. He also helped create the New York State Nonprofit Infrastructure Fund and held leadership positions in coalitions such as the Campaign for Summer Jobs.
NYN: HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN YOUR FIELD?
KD: When I got to college, I tried out a couple of different majors and found myself really drawn to the profession of social work, which is all about helping people in different ways. Through a policy class I took, I discovered that social work wasn’t just taking care of children or working directly one-on-one with families doing counseling and benefits and that sort of stuff, but was also about working on social change.
NYN: DESCRIBE AN ACCOMPLISHMENT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF.
KD: I helped lead something called the New York City Coalition for Adult Literacy. In partnership with this coalition we developed a strong campaign working with the City Council and working with the mayor’s administration to really put adult literacy out there as a policy issue that was being passed over and not really looked at and not really invested in, and managed to secure a pretty significant investment of $12 million in new money this year for adult literacy programs. The other thing that comes to my mind that I’m proud of is creating opportunities for community members to engage in government. A lot of times we do these rallies and press conferences and legislative visits and we know that it’s more effective when someone is up there telling their story as opposed to when I’m there with facts and statistics and papers like a thousand other lobbyists. It sort of changes their view of themselves and what they’re capable of.
NYN: WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU’D LIKE TO ACCOMPLISH BEFORE YOU RETIRE?
KD: I’m really interested in figuring out how we can make government work better for people, making sure that our government has transparency and there’s checks and balances and there’s not this constant spectre of corruption over government, because it undermines people’s faith in government. And that means there’s less willingness for government to spend money on programs that are perceived as just for this group of people or that group of people.
NYN: WHAT DO YOU WISH PEOPLE KNEW ABOUT YOUR JOB?
KD: There’s a lot of politics involved and understanding who influences whom and when it’s the right time to do something and when it’s not the right time to do something. What do you do when people agree with you, but aren’t motivated to do anything about it? Maybe that’s not super surprising, but it continues to frustrate and surprise me how much politics gets in the way of actual policy.