In Kansas, our state legislature comes back from the recess next week, and May promises to be a long month for social work advocates, as we battle over major budget and tax cuts, with significant implications for vulnerable populations in our state.
And so it seemed like a good time to gear ourselves up, with a little refresher on lobbying.
And what works.
I hope that my fellow policy advocates will weigh in, too, with their best advice, for how to break through to policymakers, how to sustain ourselves, and how to stay grounded in the realities of our clients and the perspectives of the world outside the dome.
- We give elected officials reason for being. We cannot ever forget that, without our phone calls, and our pleading, and our presentations, policymakers would not have a legitimate role in government. They are our representatives. So don’t ever let them make you feel bad, when you’re chasing them down in the hallways or calling them on a Saturday morning or sending them another email.
- Stories may not convince, but they do increase investment, and getting policymakers and allies invested in our policy issues is our greatest challenge. If we can get others to take on our fights as their own, we have essentially one.
- If you can only inform or influence, don’t forget that influence is our goal. We know a lot about our work, and we have so many things that we want to say, but information overload can reduce our effectiveness, and we can’t afford that. A personal connection with a policymaker can bring you much more influence than all the information in the world, and swaying policymakers is the reason we’re in this work.
- Don’t forget to pack your social work skills and values for the trip to your capital. The humor and collegiality and value base that sustain us in the most difficult social work will sustain and serve you in policy advocacy, too, but it can be too easy to slip into another persona, in the halls of the capitol, instead of wrapping ourselves in our social work-ness.
What gets you through to June or July or whenever your ‘break’ in the policy advocacy world comes? What advice would you share with those who are just beginning in this journey?