In a conversation with some nonprofit advocates a few weeks ago (where, yes, we were again talking about the framework!), one leader with a long history of working on civil rights and equity issues for people of color in Kansas questioned the utility of even showing up to provide testimony in the legislature or directly lobby members, given the unlikelihood of positive policy movement in the near future.
Again, this is an advocate with a track record of taking on racial inequality in a conservative state.
She’s no neophyte, and she doesn’t back down from a challenge.
Her question wasn’t, “what’s in it for me?” or even “what’s the use?”, but, instead, given the opportunity costs of engaging in any advocacy strategy, “is this the best use of my advocacy capacity?”
That conversation, and her honest accounting of when it’s better to walk away, led to my second sort of ‘aha!’ moment, in thinking about what our advocacy needs to look like in this context:
Sometimes, we can use legislative advocacy–or, really, any advocacy strategy–to generate outcomes elsewhere in the framework.
In other words, our policy analysis might, sometimes, primarily be a way to generate media attention. Our testimony might primarily be a way to energize our community mobilization work. Our efforts to develop elected official champions might be a vehicle through which to build public will, too, through the use of messages that will resonate with both audiences.
We don’t have to only ‘play’ in the area where we want results.
Stuff spills over. In good ways.
As long as we’re clear–to ourselves and to those who are walking alongside us–about what our aims are and what the strategy that links them to our activities is, we can use those ripples.
It’s like advocacy echoes, I think.
And, especially these days, I’ll take all the two-for-ones I can get.