â€śNever doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, itâ€™s the only thing that ever has.â€ť
– Margaret Mead
What is Advocacy?
Advocacy is â€śpublic support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.â€ť Â Advocacy requires an actor to take a stand or make her position known about a particular course of action to family and friends, the public, and/or to her elected officials. The most effective advocacy not only makes a statement for a particular action but also influences others to consider the change the advocate seeks. Effective advocacy may be accomplished through changing the minds of the audience and/or provoking them to consider the issue differently.
Who Can Become an Effective Childrenâ€™s Policy Advocate?
Anyone! All you need is a willingness to learn the facts and express your support for a selected course of public action.
How to Become an Effective Advocate
Stay Informed and Know the Facts
- Read and learn about the latest about the issue(s) you care about through your local news sources (such as the newspaper, magazines, on line news media) and reported research.
- Join relevant social networking sitesâ€”Facebook and Twitterâ€”of specific organizations devoted to addressing the needs of children or join social networking sites generally devoted to advancing social causes.Â These sites will keep you updated in real time regarding issues facing children. Â Often these sites will alert you of petitions that are as easy to sign as clicking on a link and providing your email address.
- Attend accessible issue-related events such as seminars, forums, workshops, conferences or symposiums or sign-up for webinars offered about the issues you care about.
- Meet and talk with others who share your interest in childrenâ€™s issues. Â Join a local issue/policy network or just meet informally with those who share your interest.
- Adopt a position statement that clearly and succinctly summarizes your position Be sure you have supporting facts, an understanding of the basic costs and benefits associated with the change and the political landscape. Ask yourself: Â Is the policy you are advocating politically feasible in the prevailing political, budgetary and economic climate? Decide the best way to message your position and determine how you are comfortable communicating the concerns you have.
- Select one or more Change Agent Pathway(s) including the following:
Raise Awareness/Educate Others:
- Communicate research, analysis or articles to others such as your peer/professional/friend network.
- Submit articles to the media (write letters to editor, editorials, or blogs) or write for issue-related or policy publications.
- Create, Host or Participate in Issue-Related Events such as Seminars, Forums, Conferences or Symposiums.
- Become a Watchdog-
- Monitor Issue area changes over time (lawsuits, newspaper articles, Â Â reports, self observation, etc.).
- Evaluate current or new policy effectiveness, implementation and Â Â Â funding.
- Report on issue area changes- improvements or decline. (Report can be a formal publication but is more likely to be informal such as written or oral communication with elected officials, commissions or other stakeholders, opinion pieces, letters to the editors, etc.)
- Join and Participate in Advocacy Network(s)-
Join an Advocacy Coalition, Council, Commission or Special Interest Group associated with issue.
- Communicate with Decision-makers -
- Attend important public meetings of Committee or Commission charged with addressing or exploring targeted problem and speak for policy change.
- Send letters or emails to your elected official or other responsible public officials and state your desire for a specific policy change or legislation. Â These can be sent by fax, email or postal mail stating your views on pending legislation. Â Follow the same basic rules for communicating by telephone. (see â€śPlanning your Call or Visitâ€ť Â below) Note: Many organizations have simplified the process and will provide you with a sample letter. Â If you use a sample, it is important to customize the letter if you can.
- Meet with responsible lawmakers if they are local. Â There is no substitute for a one-on-one meeting. Ask for her support for a specific policy change or legislation. (For Instructions on â€śPlanning your Call or Visit â€ť Â See Below)
- Call responsible decision makers. Calls are a quick and effective means of communication! Recognize that legislators are often away from the office, on the floor or in committee, so you may get an aide or be asked to leave a voice mail message. Â Use the same basic rules and always treat staff with respect. Â If you would rather leave a message than talk to a live body, call in the evening (For Instructions on â€śPlanning your Call or Visit â€ť Â (See Below)
- Write editorials that make the case for the policy change you support
- Petitions: Sign or originate a petition. Note: some websites generate electronic petitions (ex: change.org).
- Participate in Policy Creation – assist in review, drafting or proposing Model Legislation, ordinances, proposed bills, rule changes or other policy change).
Planning Your Call or Visit
- Know what you are going to say before you make the call.
- Keep your message simple and to-the-point because your phone call will be brief.
- Who Are You and What Have You Called About?
- Identify yourself by name and home address.
- Tell the legislator if you are a constituent. Â Legislators are most responsive to the people who can keep them in office. Â If you voted for the legislator, mention that as well.
- Identify the Bill/ordinance/problem and state your desire for a specific Â policy change or legislation
- State your position and how you wish your legislator to vote.
*Include, if possible, a personal story on comment on how the legislation will affect you or the people you know.
*Keep in mind the Three Bs that govern public speaking: Â Be brief, be brilliant, be seated!
- Ask the elected official or government representative for:
* his/her stance on the bill or issue.
* a commitment to vote for your position, (but donâ€™t argue if the legislator has an opposing view or is not yet decided.)
- Thank the legislator:
* for his/her support if he or she agrees to support your issue. Â OR
* for his/her time if he/she does not commit to supporting your position.
And, either way, let him/her know you will track the issue.
- Providing Additional Information- If your legislator needs additional information, call a supporting organization to get the information and get it to your legislator as soon as possible.
- Leveraging the Impact of your Call or Visit:
- Recruit Others to Call- Legislators pay attention to issues when they believe that many of their constituents care about that issue. With phone calls, quantity is critical. Ask as many like-minded friends, family members, or colleagues as possible to make a call. Or post a message on your Facebook or Twitter accounts or send an email to your mailing list with instructions so people understand how easy it is to make an informed call on the issue you care about.
- Report your call if you are part of a grassroots lobbying effort; your participation is helpful only if the people mobilizing the effort know about it. Â Let them know that you made the call, and report anything of import that the legislator said.
- Send a thank you letter if the legislator votes as you have requested. Â (This lets your elected official know you really are watching what he/she does!)