For the third year in a row, Fresh Energy served as a host organization during the past legislative session for the Capitol Pathways program. With the long-term goal of making Minnesota’s government truly representative of our communities, the program opens access to the state capitol to the next generation of leaders of color. Fresh Energy is proud to have been involved with Capitol Pathways as a host since the program was created in 2016.
This year, we were excited to welcome Inonge Mubita, a student at Macalester College, as our Capitol Pathways intern. Inonge supported Fresh Energy’s public affairs team through representing our organization in coalition meetings with partner organizations, reporting on relevant legislative hearings, and through coordinating all the logistics for our non-partisan candidate education program for 2018 legislative candidates. She was a valuable part of our team in helping to preserve foundational energy policy this past session. As Inonge wrapped up her internship, I sat down with her to learn about her experience this past session.
How did you decide to apply for the Capitol Pathways internship?
After moving to Minnesota about two years ago, I was really interested working more off-campus, allowing me to interact with various communities in the Twin Cities. I was also interested in environmental policy and wanted more insight on what that would look like as a future career. When a friend told me about a chance to do some policy work around renewable energy, I quickly applied! Another thing that attracted me to the Capitol Pathways program was this strong sense of support and their mission to bring more people of color into the legislature. They not only provided logistical support but emotional support for students of color. This along with my supervisor at Fresh Energy really made it a great experience!
What were your goals heading into the start of the legislative session?
One of my goals was to learn how nonprofits engage with the Legislature, other nonprofits, and for-profit business in pushing for favorable policies. There are a lot of environment-focused organizations in Minnesota and I wanted to learn how they interact at the legislature to be constructive. Another main goal was learning how to track bills and the key processes of making a bill law.
What was something that surprised you about working at the Capitol?
There are people at the Legislature who are really interested in hearing your voice. Being part of the program introduced me to several legislators who are committed to the same mission and goal of Capitol Pathways. This made the Capitol slightly more inviting and it was nice to have some familiar faces. Another thing that surprised me is that at the Capitol it can feel really slow and really fast up at the same time. Learning how to adjust to the pace at the Capitol was definitely a learning experience.
What were some of the key things you learned?
I really learned that being more collaborative and engaged with different organizations, especially as a non-profit, is advantageous even when there is difference. I was able to witness what it’s like to interact with various groups and bodies inside and outside the Legislature. On a smaller level, it helped improve the way I enter a room and introduce myself when not many people look like me. On a larger level, I have learned how important it is to collaborate with various bodies to really push for effective policy. Also I learned about some of the difficulties of doing collaborative work and maintaining your organization’s missions and values.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Working at Fresh Energy was truly a great experience and I am so grateful to have met all the people that work there. I am also grateful they allowed me to bug them about the work they do!