Quick Guide to Effective Advocacy
Links to Help You Research Legislators and Bills
THOMAS (http://thomas.loc.gov) provides legislative information from the Library of Congress
www.usa.gov - the official U.S. government portal to government information, services, and online transactions
mass.gov - the official website of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
www.saveservice.org - Save Service in America
Decision makers will continue to implement policies whether or not we are at the table.
Whether you advocate as an individual or as part of a group, your efforts will benefit from a little planning. Taking action may be as simple as briefly researching an issue and emailing your policymaker. When you have more time or are part of a larger group, you can consider some other steps, such as communicating with your allies, setting your goals, and developing an action plan. Remember that in advocacy respectful relationships build the foundation for change.
Research the Issue:
As you analyze the issues, consider the following questions:
- What is the effect of the issue in my community?
- What does this mean to my school, family, and peers?
- What is the cost of not doing anything on this issue?
- What possible actions can be taken? What are the consequences of these actions?
- Who else cares about this issue in my community?
Build a Network:
Networks are particularly effective when they:
- Bring together different constituencies with a common goal.
- Build support and legitimacy for an issue.
- Raise the profile of an issue or group.
- Rally resources to support a cause.
Communicate with Your Allies:
Establishing a network of advocates doesn't stop when members are identified. To support your group, you will need to develop an effective means of communication. The first step is to gather contact information.
Once you have this information, stay informed and stay connected. When the U.S. Congress is in session, regular email updates are sent out by various organizations. Most organizations will have sign-up options on their website.
Set Clear Goals and Reasonable Expectations:
With a solid understanding of your issue and a network of allies, you're ready to set goals for your advocacy efforts. (Note: A great opening goal is simply to introduce yourself or your group to your lawmakers and offer to serve as a resource.) Remember, changing public policy, especially at the state and federal level, takes time.
Develop a Plan and Take Action:
Whether you are working as an individual advocate or with a sizeable network, a carefully crafted list of priorities and an initial time line will provide an important road map for action.
When planning your efforts, remember to consider the time line of events that are out of your control.
In the United States, for example, several time frames with legislative significance are worth taking into account:
- January: The president gives his State of the Union address.
- February: The Executive Budget is released, highlighting the president's priorities for the coming year.
- March: Congress begins work on the annual budget process. The House and Senate work on budget resolutions to set general spending parameters for the year.
- August: Congress takes its summer recess. This is a good opportunity to meet with members of Congress in their home states and districts.
- September/October: Congress targets this time for adjournment. The federal fiscal year begins in October.
- November: Elections are held on even-numbered years.
Use What You Know:
Use Facebook, Twitter and other similar social networking sites to get the word out and join with other groups for your cause.