Hello there. My name is Michalene Morelli.
I am an insatiably curious and passionately analytical advocate of human potential.
I love listening to people discuss their hopes and fears for the future of our planet.
I learned how to channel this passion into purpose during my graduate work. Over the course of my research, I interviewed more than three hundred people, across the public, civil, private sectors; in four countries, two languages, and a range of ecosystems. I conducted community surveys and made daily interactions with the strangers I met every day the foundation for building my understanding of these communities.
I learned more about development, policy, and empathy from a fifteen-year-old girl in Dibulla, Colombia than from any of the government officials I interviewed.
Upon graduation, I re-focused this same methodology onto the individuals working in the field which I aspired to work in.
My academic background is in international law and human rights.
My research and enthusiasm are focused on the food, water, and conflict nexus – with a strong interest in the paradigm-shifting solutions offered by space-based information technology.
Exactly what type of job works on these issues?
I knew what my long-term goals were – but I was less clear on what the short-term steps were that would allow me to reach them. When I posed the question to my existing connections and mentors, I consistently received some version of the following:
“I don’t know, but you’ll be closer to it in DC.”
I took a short-term contract with a human rights NGO, moved to the most competitive job market in the country, and immediately began picking the brain of everyone I met.
I took meetings over assorted beverages at all hours of the day with people in a wide variety of positions. The more people I met, the more people I was introduced to.
“Being in the know” is currency in DC – and everyone is eager to show off their wealth.
By the end of my contract, I had met with individuals working at development banks, think tanks, on capitol hill and for government agencies, (including USAID and their myriad of development consulting firms,) at independent consulting firms, at lobbying firms (and firms that called themselves “government relations firms“), and at a whole slew of civil sector organizations.
I learned about what people did with the day-to-day of their lives and I learned what drove them to do it each and every day.
I also learned that the field I want to work in may not exist yet – at least not in the United States. I am increasingly convinced that it will in the future – because the public sector does not seem to be paying enough attention to the disruption of climate change.
But others are. The private and civil sectors are built to be more adaptable and responsive than the bureaucracy of the federal government. It makes sense, then, why these organizations are out ahead of the challenges that will affect the future – rather than filling out paperwork for the problems that alarmed us in the early 2000s.
After the 2016 election, when the organizations that were working in my area of interest made it known they were planning to spend the next four years digging in their heels, I decided DC was no longer where I needed to be.
I returned to my home in Washington state and have recently accepted a remote research consultancy with Namati. Namati is a legal empowerment organization, dedicated to operating with flexibility, humility, and urgency.
In many ways, leaving DC felt like walking away from a childhood dream. It meant accepting that the world was not as I wanted it to be and that success may not mean exactly what I thought it did.
After returning to Washington state – and prior to accepting the contract with Namati – I started this blog as a means of remaining connected to the causes that drive me.
Knowing that the women, men, and children I met during my fieldwork continue to wake-up – every morning – without access to water, food, or justice makes it hard to breathe.
I started this blog to lend a voice to these issues; not because I think it’s anywhere near enough – but because I had to start somewhere.
Thanks for reading.