In recent weeks, Groundwork Ohio has published a “Get to Know Groundwork” series that spotlights members of our amazing team! This week, we’re getting to know Erin Ryan, Groundwork’s new Director of Policy Advocacy & External Affairs. Erin joined Groundwork Ohio in April 2022.
Erin Ryan serves as the Director of Policy Advocacy & External Affairs at Groundwork Ohio. In this role, she advances the mission of the organization by working collaboratively with diverse stakeholders to drive forward bold policy change that strengthens children, families, and communities.
Prior to joining Groundwork Ohio, Erin most recently worked as a Policy Analyst at Innovation Ohio and the Managing Director of the Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network where her portfolio focused on a broad set of issues at the intersection of gender, race, and class, including paid family and medical leave, maternal health, and wealth-building.
Erin received her undergraduate degree in Political Science and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from The Ohio State University. She currently sits on the board of Mental Health America of Ohio, serving as the Vice President of the Board of Trustees and Co-Chair of the Public Policy Committee.
Check out our Q&A with Erin to learn more about why she’s a passionate advocate for young children and families in Ohio!
Q: What drew you to early childhood policy research and advocacy? Tell us more about your “why”!
A: I grew up in a politically active and civically engaged household with parents who instilled in me and my sisters the importance of giving back to our community and being involved in efforts to advance social change. From a young age, I knew that I wanted to build a career that aligned with these values and made a difference. Right out of college, that took the shape of working on political campaigns – then I fell into the policy space, and I was immediately driven by the ability to address systemic inequalities at “the root of the problem.”
Prior to joining the Groundwork Ohio team, I spent seven years working on policy issues and advocacy efforts that directly centered the lives, experiences, and needs of women. In that work, we were often advocating for policy that disproportionately impacted mothers and caregivers, which has a tremendous effect on the trajectory of young children. In pushing for change for women, many times we were connecting the dots on how that meant a better future for children and families as a whole. In joining the Groundwork Ohio team, I am excited by the opportunity to deepen my advocacy for Ohio’s children, parents and caregivers, and families in new ways.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received or a lesson that you’ve learned that has helped you in this work?
A: The best advice I’ve ever received is the idea that, as advocates, taking care of ourselves is part of the work. So often, people who work in the policy and advocacy space give so much of themselves. This work is aligned with our passion, our values, and our drive to help make a difference for our communities.
But this pace is not sustainable in the long run, and it can lead to health issues and burnout. By taking care of ourselves and recognizing when we need to take a step back, pause, or rest, we can better serve those around us and stay grounded in our work.
Q: Groundwork Ohio’s word for 2022 is ELEVATE. What’s your word for 2022?
A: In 2022, my word for the year is CHANGE. I am going through some big life changes this year, including starting my role at Groundwork Ohio and becoming a first-time homeowner with my husband. Change is a constant that we all experience, whether large or small. Rather than feeling stressed or overwhelmed by change, I am choosing to embrace it!
Q: When you aren’t advocating on behalf of young children and families, what do you enjoy doing?
A: I love to travel and experience the food, arts, and culture of new places! My husband and I love to build in visits with friends across the country or outside of the U.S. with our travel plans, and we have a growing list of vacation spots that we want to explore. I am also a huge fan of enjoying a lazy weekend, relaxing with a good book or a tv show is a great way to rejuvenate.
Q: Describe a scene from your vision of the future for Ohio’s youngest children and their caregivers.
A: I am hopeful that the future holds concrete policy change and investments in Ohio’s youngest children and their caregivers. Right now, too many families are being left behind, but we cannot simply make “quick fixes” to address the systemic barriers that are holding back children and families. We need to advance bold public policy change that focuses on what children, caregivers, and families need. Ohio has the potential to be a state where every child can reach their full potential, every parent and caregiver can feel empowered and supported, and every family can thrive. That is the future that I envision, and the future that Groundwork Ohio is fighting for every day.