Framework for a strong foundation

About a month ago, I posted about this framework for advocacy from the inimitable Tanya Beer with the Center for Evaluation Innovation.

I have used it several times since, to talk with organizations about how they conceptualize their advocacy–the targets towards which they are directed, the tactics they deploy, and the outcomes they can expect.

This week, then, I have three different (for me–hopefully they’ll translate for some of you!) epiphanies connected to this framework, one of which I owe directly to my good friend and awesome organizer Jake Lowen, of Kansas Grassroots.

When Jake and I were discussing this framework with some organizations, someone asked whether it is like a menu that organizations can choose from.

After listening and thinking (both things he does very well), Jake responded with a reference to (seriously) an obscure book about architectural theory, relating to the idea that, theoretically, the only factor that limits how tall a skyscraper can be is how wide you can build the base. He suggested, then, that we think about the different elements of this framework, or of our advocacy efforts, not as discrete items to be selected from a menu and cobbled together, but, instead, as bricks in a strong foundation. In this analogy, then, all of the ways in which we advance our issues–policy and research, community organizing, champion development–are essential, although we might emphasize one or another at different points.

And, extending this architectural reference to the current political environment, in Kansas and many parts of the country, our discussion raised the question that, since we essentially have a need for taller buildings today–the ‘shortcuts’ that were more possible in advocacy when the climate was more favorable and we had more champions on the inside to carry our messages–we need, then, an even stronger foundation.

Hence, more bricks.

That means, in applied advocacy language (since my knowledge of architectural theory is now, officially, exhausted), I think this means that we have to stretch ourselves into areas of the framework that might be less comfortable for us, in order to weather the storms that are undeniably part of the advocacy reality today. In some cases, we might be slowly approaching from one corner, in order to ease into policy change. In other cases, we might be surrounding our decision maker targets with information, public will, and pressure from influentials.

In essence, while we can’t ignore the poetic necessity to, sometimes, just speak truth to power and bang our heads against brick walls, there are often ways over and around the obstacles that we confront in one quadrant…

If we are nimble enough to build in another.

Where, and how, are you building advocacy strategies in this political reality that might differ from years past? How are these other efforts complementing your direct lobbying? How do they build you a stronger foundation?

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