September is mostly going to be “what has Melinda been doing” month.
And my motivations are fairly self-serving, I’ll acknowledge.
I have been working so much for my consulting clients that I really haven’t been doing nearly as much reading and exchanging, in the blogosphere or otherwise, to cultivate thoughts to share here.
And, too, I need a reason to sit still for a few moments and just reflect on, and sort of process, what this work is adding up to.
I hope, of course, that this is also at least somewhat helpful to you, the readers who continue to humble and amaze me, with your comments and your mere presence.
If not, well…it’s another reason for me to be ever grateful to you, for humoring me. And to the Internet, for giving me this platform.
My world was fairly rocked, and not in a good way at all, in the Kansas Republican primaries on August 7th of this year. Conservatives picked up way more seats than they needed, in order to gain control of the Senate, which has, until now, been a pretty moderate body, serving as a sort of ‘check’ in the past two years, as the House and Governor’s Mansion are increasingly far-right.
It was a big deal, and even made national news.
I don’t think that it’s as much a mandate for the policies of Kobach and company as much as a referendum on the inadequacy of the Republican primary–and, at least for now, the entire party–as a medium for moderation. In several of the races, where solid moderate Republicans–mostly very good friends of mine–lost well-financed, hard-fought contests, there is ample evidence that moderate voters just didn’t show up.
I’m still very much in the stages of grief, here. Some of my advocate friends joke that I may stay ‘stuck’ in anger for a long, long time.
We will almost inevitably lose issues that matter a great deal to me, including our instate tuition policy for immigrant students, decent school financing for public education, an Earned Income Tax Credit, support for essential social services.
Elections have consequences.
Even when that sucks.
But I know that I can’t stay stuck in grief. None of us can afford that.
Neither can we content ourselves entirely with ‘speaking truth to power’, not if that means beating our heads against the collective wall that will be the Kansas Legislature for the next few years.
We can do better.
I have had the pleasure of working alongside the Center for Evaluation Innovation recently, on a Kansas Advocacy Evaluation Collaborative, where we’re helping some of our strongest advocates–primarily in health–to develop new and greater capacity to evaluate their advocacy efforts.
One of the takeaways for me, from these discussions, has been this framework that they introduce to help advocacy organizations conceptualize where their activities are directed and the kinds of impacts that they can expect from them. It’s designed, in part, to help foundations and grantees understand where they need to be engaged in order to get the effects they want. For me, though, it’s also about reminding ourselves where else we can be–beyond just legislative lobbying–in order to influence other key actors and, ultimately, provoke change.
We used this framework with the Sunflower Foundation Advocacy Fellows last week, as part of a discussion about how the Kansas political climate has shifted, and what this means for the Fellows’ work.
I needed this, at this particular juncture.
It’s like a challenge, to consider all of the places, and all of the ways, I need to be working. Where should we be organizing and mobilizing? What kind of research and analysis do we need? Are there places we can develop champions, in ways that might, slowly, build political will? What do voters need to understand, and how can we really reach them?
Certainly, many advocacy organizations have long considered all of these domains fertile territory. I don’t mean to imply that we’ve ever been ‘one-trick ponies’. But, now that our efforts in legislative lobbying are more likely to be thwarted–NOT that we should ignore the statehouse, in any respect–how can we piece together a theory of change that relies more heavily on some of these other quadrants?
How can we adapt and thrive, no matter how hostile the environment?
So that, in the end, we find new ways to win?