case study

Who Tells the Development Story?

Two people work together writing something on a notepad. Natasha Sweeney Photography

The Challenge 

Too often, the stories and opinions we read about international development are missing perspectives from developing countries. The result? Solutions, stories, and ideas about climate change, urbanization, human rights, infectious diseases, and food security that may completely overlook the best answers—those rooted in lived, personal experiences—for a healthier and more prosperous future. 

In 2013, the Aspen Institute launched the New Voices Fellowship—a groundbreaking program to equip experts from developing countries with the skills to play a more powerful role as leaders and advocates in the global development discussion. Today, the program has trained and mentored more than 170 experts from over 40 countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America.  

Our Approach 

Burness was brought on at the program’s outset to serve as its media and communications partner—with a focus on supporting the fellows’ craft by editing and placing their opinion pieces. For the past 10 years, we have worked closely with the New Voices Fellowship to ensure that each fellow (about 15-25 fellows each year) has a clear vision of the key elements of an op-ed and what they want to accomplish with their piece.  

When the piece is final, we leverage our contacts with opinion editors around the world—a list of over 100 personal contacts at global, regional, and national media outlets—to pitch and place the pieces in outlets that will reach the fellows’ key audiences.  

1 Natasha Sweeney Photography
2 Natasha Sweeney Photography
3 Natasha Sweeney Photography

Results and Impact  

Since 2013, Burness has worked with the New Voices Fellowship to edit and place over 350 op-eds, in outlets ranging from the New York Times to the Jakarta Post and Zimbabwe Herald. 

These pieces, and the profile they’ve helped generate for the fellows’ important work, have opened up doors for meetings with policymakers, TV appearances on major news networks, invitations for TED talks, and even new partnerships and funding.  

Here’s a snapshot of some of those placements over the years: 


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