Michelle Nunn Interview Article
Written by KaRa Lyn Thompson, Spring 2018 Program Intern
Pictures of women and children from around the world accompanied me as we waited for the interview. We saw a baby boy being pushed around and hugged by people in the office. The orange walls filled me with joy. It was a normal day at CARE USA.
Except it wasn’t a normal day for me. That Wednesday afternoon, I had the opportunity to have an incredibly insightful conversation with CARE President and CEO, Michelle Nunn. Our conversation touched on her inspirations, CARE, change movements, and of course, Atlanta. She has spent over a decade being a leader in the nonprofit arena. Her impact on the world and the community have shown through her dedication to organizations with great purposes. I was curious about how she got to the seat in front of me.
“I had the opportunity to volunteer when I was in high school and found great meaning and purpose and excitement from that experience,” said Nunn. “I always thought I would do something public service-oriented.”
It didn’t hurt that she had parents with civic and political backgrounds. She felt that it was her natural path. At 23 years old, Nunn helped start Hands on Atlanta which focused on matching volunteers to community projects. From her position titled “Glorified Executive Director” to CEO of another nonprofit, Points of Light, she found herself loving leading organizations.
“I have just been really fortunate to be a part of organizations and what I think of as change movements that have been incredibly rewarding and gratifying and energizing,” Nunn reflected.
Change movements are happening all over the world and CARE is playing a crucial role in spreading the messages. For example, the #MeToo movement has reached the red carpets as celebrities stand in solidarity to fight against sexual harassment. As mentioned in her Time Magazine article, Nunn wants to help create a broader platform for those who may not have as loud of a voice.
“There are many places in the world that people still believe that it is okay to demand sex from people who work for them,” stated Nunn. “Many people still don’t necessarily understand the issue around gender-based violence in the workplace and full equality.”
To fight this inequality, CARE conducted a survey in eight different countries to gather information and opinions about sexual harassment at work. The majority of respondents said that they were hopeful that the #MeToo movement would actually change things. At the beginning of May, CARE began the #ThisIsNotWorking campaign to take the energy of the movement and create a lasting impact.
“Our job is to work in partnership with them so that they can lift up their voices,” said Nunn when asked about how CARE deals with the differing cultural norms that women face all over the world. “I think change is most powerful when it is coming within communities.”
The power of local communities in creating lasting change is imperative. CARE understands this dynamic and uses it to strengthen local communities in where it works. In 2017, CARE began an initiative called Scale X Design which supplies the resources and abilities to turn innovative ideas into reality. By inviting teams from all over the world to participate in the cohort, the idea must be able to help at least one million people. Nunn mentioned that although you can’t quantify everything, CARE uses intermediate benchmarks and standards to help move toward their goals.
While focusing on local change, I wondered how mutually beneficial the relationship was between CARE and Atlanta. After moving its headquarters from Manhattan to Atlanta in the 1990s, CARE has been around through years of changes in the community. However, being an Atlantan herself, Nunn felt there is a unique aspect that Atlanta has to offer.
“The vibrancy and dynamism of Atlanta’s civic leadership has been a really rich place for CARE to locate,” said Nunn.
This civic community paired with the boosts in economic opportunity help shape the future for Atlanta. CARE has recently received funding that will aid in the development of a Global Innovation Hub in which the organization will provide a space for social entrepreneurs to collocate. As CARE continues to be a leader worldwide, they also do their part in the local community.
Nunn recalls the uniqueness of Atlanta’s position as a leader in global public health and development and enjoys participating in the Council’s Annual Global Health Summit in which major players in the community get together to discuss the topic. CARE was represented in 2017 by Michelle Nunn.
“I think that we have underutilized that ecosystem and those set of assets as a city,” said Nunn. “I hope that we can increasingly find ways of challenging ourselves and our institutions to both recognize, build upon and extend our reputation as the Global Public Health capital of the world.”
The World Affairs Council of Atlanta will be hosting the 2018 Global Health Summit on September 17, 2018. We look forward to everyone joining in discussion of one of Atlanta’s many assets and continue to #MakeATLGlobal. We want to extend our gratitude for Michelle Nunn and CARE for this opportunity to interview her and hope to see you all at the Annual Summit.