Supporting Advocates in the Field

We are moving into a new phase with the group of nonprofit health executives whose work I help to support, as they approach a more intentional level of systems and policy advocacy, focusing more on sustaining and surrounding former Fellows, following the one-year intensive commitment.

That means that we have to really think about what it takes to sustain advocacy within the career of a nonprofit executive, and how to root the learning of these Fellows in their organizations, and how a community of advocates (many of whom are engaged in quite disparate issues) can help individual advocates to improve and maintain their efforts.

We know some of the ways that we will approach this:

  • Building towards a field orientation, helping Fellows to think more about their own advocacy capacity and the capacity of their allies, so that they can develop a greater understanding of what their network looks like and how they can leverage others’ assets for collective impact
  • Connecting Fellows to others in their regions, across issues, given the significance of regional power alliances within policymaking in Kansas–this means that those who are working in Northwest Kansas, for example, on anything health-related, would be assisted to develop opportunities for working together, rather than exclusively bringing those working on oral health together, around the state
  • Facilitating a social space, in a contained environment, where Fellows can freely exchange ideas and resources, and, importantly, complain and lament and be supported in those emotions, too
  • Adding new knowledge and skills, because Fellows are clear that their learning around advocacy is not done, and that they will only be able to regularly prioritize the time commitment necessary to come together as Fellows if they can justify to their Boards how they will gain new tools and insights for their work
  • Layering on engagement with others within the Fellows’ organizations, perhaps to include webinars that will be accessible to Board members, volunteers, and front-line staff members, or periodic ‘seminal’ events with invitations extended to key stakeholders

I will be responsible for much of the content creation for the social space, which is why I was thrilled to come across a post from Community Organizer 2.0 about the content/community connection. And I’ll help with facilitating the regional gatherings and doing some of the event planning, too. We have fairly extensive evaluations from Fellows, including some debriefing conversations following the completion of the Fellowship, about the kinds of opportunities they crave to connect and to advance their advocacy.

But, I’m hoping to crowdsource this one, too.

Especially if someone else was going to foot the bill, what types of activities would you prioritize, for your own advocacy development? What kinds of relationships–mentors, ‘kitchen cabinets’, peers, apprentices–do you value most? What kinds of skills and knowledge are most needed? What would you ask for, if you had the chance, as investments to support your advocacy?

What would make the greatest difference, so that you could make the greatest difference?

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