It’s true that Population Connection doesn’t provide health services. We are not medical professionals—we don’t develop new methods of birth control or conduct vasectomy clinics or even typically hand out condoms. And yes, family planning services and women’s desire to use them are what ultimately lower birthrates and bring our world closer to a stable human population.
But who advocates for the funding of domestic and international family planning programs? And how do people learn about the reasons we should strive for population stabilization in the first place?
That’s where Population Connection comes in.
We are the only grassroots organization in the United States that focuses on international family planning and global population stabilization—we are the heart of the social movement to end rapid population growth.
We lead this movement through two largely independent programs: education and advocacy.
Teachers practice drawing population pyramids at a PopEd training institute
Most Americans couldn’t tell you how many people live in our own country, let alone the world. Or why they should even care about population numbers and trends.
Our Population Education program aims to change that, by educating K-12 students about human population growth and its impacts on natural resources, environmental quality, and human wellbeing.
Since 1975, Population Education (PopEd) has developed hands-on curricula for each grade level. All PopEd lesson plans are matched to content standards, including Common Core, the Next Generation Science Standards, and all 50 states’ versions of these or their own guidelines. Lessons are also matched to the Canadian provincial standards as well as the course curricula for AP Human Geography and AP Environmental Science. This ensures that any teacher in North America can find PopEd lesson plans appropriate to their classroom instruction. Our World Population Video is used in classrooms and museums worldwide, and has been featured many times by various media outlets, including The Washington Post and Scientific American.
We operate under a “train the trainer” model: Our Volunteer Trainers Network of over 600 educators conduct workshops in their communities within the U.S. and abroad. They lead workshops for pre-service students, teachers, and nonformal educators in their local areas.
This model allows PopEd staff and volunteer trainers to provide hands-on training to 12,000+ teachers and student teachers every year. And for those who can’t make it to one of our in-person trainings, we now offer an online professional development course, “Making the Population Connection: Exploring the Human-Environmental Nexus in Today’s Middle and High School Classroom.”
The impact of such a widespread presence is dramatic: Each year, we reach an estimated 3 million K-12 students with our lesson plans. Teachers consistently report in the survey we administer every two years that their students take our content to heart—in our latest survey, 93% of teachers saw an increase in their students’ awareness of population issues after sharing Population Education lessons in their classrooms, and 4 out of 5 teachers discovered a change in their students’ thinking regarding population growth.
Kids are our future voters, parents, and policymakers. We are confident that educating them about one of our planet’s greatest challenges at a young age will have lasting effects in the ways they lead their own lives and positively influence the lives of others.
Population Connection staff rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court
If education is our long game, advocacy is how we affect change in the here and now. It’s what drives our grassroots outreach on college campuses—where Population Connection, as ZPG, got its start—and with existing and prospective members across the country.
Our supporters donate, volunteer, contact their members of Congress with our talking points, use our PopEd curriculum materials, or all of the above. With our help, they host film screenings, guest speaker lectures, and local lobby visits. They live all over North America, and without them we wouldn’t have the honor of being America’s voice for population stabilization.
At the policy level, we work with decision-makers who are champions on the issues of family planning and reproductive health, but we also try to meet with members of Congress who are not supportive, in order to try to change their minds—or at least their votes.
Our crowning event occurs each spring, when we host hundreds of activists in Washington, D.C. at Capitol Hill Days, our annual advocacy event. Our participants—mostly college students who join us through scholarships provided by our generous donors—meet with their members of Congress on Capitol Hill. They let their representatives know that there are people back home who care about population issues and are watching how they vote on legislation affecting women’s health and empowerment. They request increased funding for family planning aid and demand an end to policies that block reproductive autonomy in the United States and in the countries that receive our foreign aid. At this year’s event, we had 352 advocates from 34 states and 131 congressional districts who attended 190 lobby visits that Population Connection staff arranged.