…It’s not a “new” movement, but I want to inspire youth engagement. We’ve really seen youth engagement soar worldwide over the past few years — and that’s what I strive to support in my work at UNICEF USA. Society as a whole does better when today’s leaders work together with the next generation. And when confronting issues like climate change, violence or healthcare, we know that children today continue to bear the brunt of the decisions being made by adults. I’m deeply committed to supporting and empowering young people so they can raise their voices and continue to demand that adults address their futures. I’m excited to see how today’s youth activists will continue to inspire future leaders to come.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing…Anucha Browne, Chief Engagement, Advocacy, and Global Programs Officer. Anucha Browne is Chief Engagement, Advocacy, and Global Programs Officer for UNICEF USA. She joined the organization in November 2017 and is responsible for overseeing the implementation and integration of the organization’s current and future strategic plans, and developing and implementing a comprehensive engagement strategy to involve the American public. After earning her BS degree in Communications from Northwestern University and her Master’s degree, also in Communications, from Florida State University, Anucha worked for Eastman Kodak and for IBM, where she undertook various sales and marketing roles. She then served as the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Operations for the New York Knicks. Most recently, Anucha was the Vice President of Women’s Basketball Championships for the NCAA. Anucha has three children and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me! My career path has taken many twists and turns, all of which were important in bringing me where I am today. The majority of my career has been spent in the business of sports. Before joining UNICEF USA, I worked as a senior vice president of championships at the NCAA, which is the national governing body of collegiate sports. While I enjoyed and thrived in my work, I was drawn to a greater cause of creating legacy programming and supporting underserved communities where we hosted championships.
That experience reinforced my desire to pursue work that was focused on serving the most vulnerable populations. When the opportunity to join UNICEF USA presented itself, it was a natural path for me and I’ve never looked back. I truly feel I’m meant to be at UNICEF USA, and that I can do incredible work for the world’s most vulnerable women and children.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to southern Mexico to see how UNICEF supports migrants in the region as they make they make the perilous journey north, often in hopes of reaching the United States. While there, I spent time in a respite center for women and children, where I met a mother from Guatemala who was there with her infant daughter. Though our conversation was relatively short and facilitated by a translator, her story really stuck with me. She kept mentioning that her baby had green eyes and that she felt that her daughter having green eyes would make her more acceptable in the United States.
What really resonated with me was the extent to which this mother was downplaying her own cultural uniqueness and beauty out of sheer desperation to be safe. That’s what really stays with you — the levels of desperation that you see individuals experience, just to get to the United States. Reading about it in the newspaper is one thing, but my understanding of the topic completely changed once I was able to see it firsthand and meet the people that are at the center of the issue.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’m sure I’ve made many mistakes, as we all do. I can’t pinpoint one, but I can tell you that I spend a lot of time laughing at myself! And I think that’s a lesson in itself — learning how to grow from your mistakes without beating yourself up
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
As an organization, UNICEF really is at the forefront of impact and sustainability, helping to bring lifesaving solutions– from education to vaccines — to children in over 190 countries around the world. Since its establishment after World War II, UNICEF has helped saved more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization.
But part of what makes UNICEF unique is that we’re there before, during and after the onset of an emergency. In 2018 alone, UNICEF responded to 285 humanitarian emergencies in 90 countries around the world, providing vital life-saving support to millions of children. We work in some of the toughest places in the world, from conflict zones in Afghanistan to drought affected areas in the Sahel, all while using cutting-edge and innovative ideas to help solve pressing global development challenges. For example, we’re flying midwives into Boko Haram-controlled territory in Northern Nigeria and using drones to deliver vaccines in the remote island of Vanuatu — and the driving force behind this work is simple: children are our future. And we won’t stop until we see the day where every child has the right to be safe, healthy, protected and educated so that they can reach their fullest potential.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
First and foremost, our leaders need to listen to children and young people. All over the world, we’re seeing youth activists, from Greta Thunberg to Emma Gonzalez, raise their voices to bring attention to issues affecting them such as climate change, gun violence, education and vaccine hesitancy. And the data shows that children want to make a difference — UNICEF USA polled American youth across the country to get their thoughts on political and social issues affecting them, and found that only one third of American children feel included in the U.S. political process, yet over four out of five children (81%) think kids could help improve the country if politicians worked more closely with children and young people.
In addition, leaders across both sides of the aisle need to agree to depoliticize children’s issues. Child rights are human rights, and all children deserve the right to a safe and healthy childhood, regardless of their nationality, gender, religion, socioeconomic status or migration status. Whether it’s a child’s right to safety at the U.S.-Mexico border or at the frontlines of conflict in Syria, we must not forget that children are children first, and must be treated as such. Time and time again, we’ve seen children suffer from the decisions being made by adults.
Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted by your cause?
It’s hard to pick just one story! At UNICEF USA, we are teaching thousands of young Americans how to raise their voices, advocate for the most vulnerable, organize and become global citizens. Those actions also take many different forms whether it’s participating in Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF during Halloween, starting or joining a UNICEF UNITE club at the high school- or college-levels, or attending our Annual Summit with leaders and stakeholders in Washington D.C.
And thanks to those collective efforts, from driving awareness to raising funds, more children around the world are becoming empowered, educated, healthy and safe. UNICEF USA’s work is all about supporting this generation of youth voices and the next.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I would define effective leadership as being authentic, humble and engaged. That means leading with integrity and standing by your beliefs, even if it goes against popular opinion. I think that leading with humility is equally important and empowers individuals to focus on their strengths so that they can perform to the best of their abilities.
Lastly, I think being engaged is a core part of being a leader — whether by being available when needed or listening to your colleagues and those impacted by your work. I know that I become a better leader when I have the chance to strategize and work alongside my colleagues to enact the best change for children.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
It’s not necessarily a “new” movement, but I would want to inspire youth engagement. As I mentioned previously, we’ve really seen youth engagement soar worldwide over the past few years — and that’s what I strive to support in my work at UNICEF USA. Society as a whole does better when today’s leaders work together with the next generation. And when confronting issues like climate change, violence or healthcare, we know that children today continue to bear the brunt of the decisions being made by adults.
I’m deeply committed to supporting and empowering young people so they can raise their voices and continue to demand that adults address their futures. I’m excited to see how today’s youth activists will continue to inspire future leaders to come.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The quote that is most meaningful to me is, “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue my dreams and attend college at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Now that I’m in the position where I’m at, it’s my mission to advocate for children and in turn, empower children to advocate for themselves. As a female executive, that also means working to empower other women around me so that we can collectively press forward for progress.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. You have a tribe of women lifting you up.
2. Surround yourself with positive innovators.
3. It’s okay to go against the popular stance.
4. Keep your eye on the end game.
5. Stand up for what’s right even if it’s not popular.
Throughout my career journey, I was able to learn these lessons on my own, but I wish I’d had that guidance from the start!
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
It would be Desmond Tutu. He’s a human right’s activist who was instrumental in ending apartheid in South Africa and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. I’m inspired by his unwavering commitment to social good and for his speaking out against injustices, from racism to homophobia, etc.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
They can follow me on Twitter at @nukehoops, and to keep up with the latest from UNICEF USA, they can follow @UNICEFUSA on Twitter and Instagram as well.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you continued success on your great work!