Tag Archives: policy

Horrible stuff I wouldn’t even dare to make up

I thought about, for this April Fool’s Day, making up something really awesome in the social policy world. But then I thought that would be super depressing, to find out that it was just a joke.

And, so, then I thought about making something up that’s really horrible, because that would make us feel better, right, to find out that it was a trick?

But, then I worried that I’d never be able to make up something so terrible that it would seem at all suspicious. Which was super depressing, too.

So, then I decided that I’d MUCH rather be angry than sad, about the assaults on social work values and on those we serve. So I scrolled through my email archives to find some of the horrible stuff that sounds so outlandishly awful that it should be made up, that I’ve collected over the past couple of months, for a sort of “should be April Fool’s jokes but we’re not laughing, so let’s do something about it” list.

That was too wordy a title even for me.

In no particular order, here are some completely unfunny, all-too-true examples of why social work advocacy is so needed.

No joke.

  • Tea Party group in my own state of Kansas depicts President Obama as a skunk, in an overtly racist smear. I’m grateful not only to the local NAACP chapter for speaking out on this but also for my good friends at the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, for helping us see how this connects to very worrisome trends of anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric (and action) within Tea Party groups.
  • City of Topeka repeals its domestic violence law in order to avoid having to pay to prosecute misdemeanors, after the County DA announced that his office would no longer do so, in order to save money. This was really controversial, with some advocates applauding the City Council’s decision as calling the DA’s bluff, but I side with those who feel that it sent a really dangerous signal, in addition to resulting in the failure to charge at least several perpetrators whose crimes were committed during the time during which they were, essentially, not crimes. Women struggling to flee abuse should not be pawns in an intra-governmental budget showdown. Period.
  • 96-year-old African-American woman who voted even during the Jim Crow era blocked by Tennessee’s “voter ID” law. Honestly, I had hoped that I was just being paranoid about these laws being an attack on our most fundamental democratic rights. Obviously not.
  • Alabama. Enough said.

    It shouldn’t be so hard to come up with a list of totally wild things, pulled from our imaginations, that would be instantly recognizable as fabrications.

    Maybe that’s my new advocacy goal: make “ridiculous” mean something again, in the policy context.

    A year from now, I want to be foolable again.

The solace in standing on the right side

At Sam’s parent-teacher conferences last fall, his teacher said that sometimes he has trouble in class because “he always thinks he’s right.”

My husband just gave me that knowing look, as in ‘we know where he got that trait.’

Yeah, okay. I can own that.

But, truly, I can acknowledge that some of the positions I take may not be right, at least not in a “so the other side is wrong” way. I get that there are legitimate questions about the best way to support working families, for example, or what optimal energy policy looks like, or the precise mix of taxes that create a strong revenue foundation. And, so, within my worldview, there’s room to admit that I don’t have any lock on absolute truth in those questions, where there’s at least an element of technical knowledge, not just moral judgment.

And that’s what politics should be about, in my opinion–vigorous debates about the best ways to attain what should be universally-heralded goals. As in, we all want to make sure all children are well-nourished and well-educated, but what are the best ways to attain those ideals?

This post isn’t about those issues, the ones where people can have open and pretty dignified debate, and where there’s a pretty decent chance that the truth is somewhere in the middle of their respective positions.

This is about those issues where there’s clearly no middle ground, and where what’s at stake is really too sacred to be left to compromise.

It’s about the struggle of oppressed peoples for freedom, about the search for equality under the law, and about the human need to be recognized as fully human, even when that’s not yet where political consensus comes down.

When I was leafing through a magazine shortly after baby Evelyn was born last summer (the great side benefit of hours spent nursing!), I came across this quote from Chris Matthews that I liked so much it has been taped to my office wall ever since:

“Over time, people who advance liberties tend to win the argument, whether it’s for women, African Americans, immigrants, or the gay community. In the end, America takes the side of the people looking for rights. That’s one of the wonders of this country. Eventually, we live up to our ideals.”

I don’t know, quite honestly, that I’d be quite so generous in my assessment, but I think his basic premise is not only pretty accurate but very comforting. In essence, it’s a restatement of the famous quote attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice” (1967 address to the SCLC).

And it reminds us that, even when we seem to be losing today, today is, after all, only today, and the odds are still in our favor. What was unthinkable a few generations ago is now enshrined in laws, however imperfect they may be, and today’s most heated struggles–for equality for GLBTQ communities, for the civil rights of immigrants–may be case studies in tomorrow’s history books.

I can’t always be certain I’m correct, as much as I might like to posture otherwise.

But we can know when we stand with right.

And, in the middle of lonely and seemingly hopeless battles, that feels good.

Becoming the change we wish to see: Predictions for 2012

Okay, so to be completely honest, there’s really nothing “predictive” about this list AT ALL.

It’s just my wish list put in more positive form; I figure that you have to dream it to do it…or something like that, right?

So, in the interest of being the change we wish to see (is there any radical who hasn’t been bumperstickerified?), here are the headlines that I’m hoping we’ll see at some point in 2012. At my house, we’re celebrating our first year in 7 years without either a new baby or a major house project, or both. So, as we’ve been saying for awhile, “let’s make this year our year.”


  • Kansas Legislature resoundingly rejects “Show-me-your-Papers” legislation (note the presumed adoption of our preferred messaging, too!)
  • Extension of Bush-era tax breaks for upper earners rejected, replaced with robust, transparent, and progressive tax foundation
  • U.S. Congress approves a “people’s budget”, with investments in education, health care, green technology, job creation, and critical infrastructure–broad coalition claims success in historic collaboration
  • The IRS reveals that the overwhelming majority of 501(c)3 organizations are now 501(h) ‘electing’, signaling their intention to take on significant advocacy roles
  • Poverty, unemployment rates fall–advocates credit national commitment to a new ‘war on poverty’
  • U.S. Supreme Court rules local funding of public schools unconstitutional ‘separate but equal’ and mandates full equalization of school finance formulas–states respond to public pressure by dramatically increasing per pupil expenditures

    While we’re on the subject of the courts, why not go for broke?

  • U.S. Supreme Court issues two landmark rulings on the same day: Affirming constitutionality of health care legislation and ending discrimination based on sexual orientation

    What about you? When you close your eyes and envision the future, one year from now, what do you see? What are you going to do differently, this year, to make those visions reality?

  • Hook us up, Santa

    My kids are pretty into Christmas, I’ll admit.

    Somehow, despite watching absolutely no television (they can only have ~20 minutes/day of a video from the library, with no previews or commercials) and having parents who very rarely buy anything (Mommy does not have time to shop), they have grown some of the same propensity to “want” as most of the rest of our society, and this manifests itself, each year, in a Christmas list.

    Truthfully, it could be a lot worse. My oldest son has asked for some paint in his stocking for the past couple of years, and they LOVE fruit snacks, so they each get a box of those, too. Other than that, it’s mostly some books and maybe a puzzle, some pajamas, and one special present for which they’ve been longing. It doesn’t get too out of hand, and we work in a lot of giving–the kids each choose one brand-new present they receive to give away without opening, and we divert much of what others give them before they even see it.

    So, in all honesty, Mommy’s Christmas list is probably a bit more audacious than the kids’, a bit longer, and certainly more aspirational. Mommy wants a lot, and, while I’m committed to working hard to bring much of this about, it’s been a rather rough couple of years, and I figure that we could really use some help, you know? So if Santa can bring my daughter the dolls with snap-on outfit changes that she’s been coveting for months, surely he can hook us up with some social justice, too.

    Here’s my list, edited to not seem too greedy.

    What’s on yours?

  • Election protection: I want people’s votes to count in November 2012. I’m very concerned that efforts in states around the country, including notably my home here in Kansas, are eroding individuals’ abilities to exercise their constitutional rights, and that elections will be truly stolen under the guise of ensuring their “integrity.” Our nation cannot, and should not have to, withstand a confusing and unnecessarily contested election that destroys our confidence in the democratic process.
  • The DREAM Act: I’ll admit, Santa, that my faith is waning a bit, since I asked REALLY nicely for immigration reform last year and didn’t even get the DREAM Act in that December 2010 vote. Is there an example of more commonsense legislation that we’re stubbornly refusing to pass, even though it’s in our best interest? I’m not sure that I can think of one. These kids are incredible. Even our most ardent anti-immigrant policymakers, when confronted with them face-to-face, acknowledge that. Let’s give them a chance and give ourselves a break.
  • Progressive tax policy: OK, so maybe this is a bit like my daughter asking for Barbies (not going to happen). But what is Christmas if not a time to dream? Instead of a long list of what shouldn’t be cut (and what should be restored) in our state and federal budgets, what I want is a revenue foundation that would make those investments possible, while at the same time addressing the tremendous inequalities that are corrosive in themselves. We should have the money to do what we must, but we’ve got to collect it in a way that makes sense. As one of my students said in class this fall, “it’s all about the orange.”
  • Foreign debt forgiveness: Can’t we get out of the international payday loan business? We’ve collected what we were owed, many times over, and yet we’re still holding developing countries hostage so that we can receive our interest payments, despite the fact that their debt service cripples their ability to invest in their own economies (and people) in ways that would not only relieve suffering but contribute to prosperity (thereby reducing the need for our later intervention)! I’ll compromise; it doesn’t even have to be across-the-board, but let’s put real debt forgiveness on the table, now.
  • An invigorated movement for social justice, to make it all possible: Santa, I know you’re getting older, and I’m sure you’d like a break. The truth is, unlike elaborately hand-crafted wooden toys or correctly-assembled dollhouses, we can take care of this list ourselves, if we can build the kind of grassroots cohesion necessary to chart our own collective futures. I see signs, in the labor movement and with immigrant youth and in exciting campaigns that integrate social technologies, that this potential is within our grasp. I hope that this is the year that we look back on as having made the difference.

    I’ll set out the cookies, Santa. You know what to do.

  • That sounds about right…

    In preparation for the upcoming state legislative session(s)–they’ll be here before we know it!–I’ve been working with some folks who are reviewing policy trends at the state level, nationwide, to identify sources for these new initiatives, messages and strategies that can combat them, and (because I’m ever the optimist!) positive legislative agendas that can chart a way forward, at least in the states where I spend most of my time.

    Looking back, especially over the last couple of years, I was reminded of a quote that I bookmarked in Backlash, a book that I read during my maternity leave.

    Will Bunch, the author, referred to some of the legislative developments that took precedence in Congress over job creation priorities, as “impulsive acts of rage with imprimatur of law” (p. 164).

    And, you know, that sounds about right.

    I have an obvious interest, in particular, in the anti-immigrant attacks that are odious not only for their sheer meanness but also for their foolishness, given that almost all of them are completely unlawful (which, if you think about it, is really kind of ironic: What part of “illegal” do they not understand?). Of course, immigrants aren’t the only ones hurt by these attacks: do you want to be waiting in an emergency room in Arizona while personnel are trying to verify proof of citizenship? (SB 1405–I don’t make this stuff up) Or, what–you don’t carry your original birth certificate on you in case of a life-threatening injury? Wasteful, ill-conceived, hateful, ridiculous…and popular, in states with very different demographics and even political landscapes.

    But, of course, immigrants were not the only ones targeted by vengeful acts of childish rage. One of my students wrote a paper this year pointing out how the attacks on women’s reproductive rights threaten our economic viability as a nation, given the link, worldwide, between women’s ability to control their own fertility and their labor market participation. People who work for a living, despite their overwhelming strength in numbers, were demonized, devalued, and, in terms of meaningful access to redress for grievances and some power to right tremendous imbalances in the workplace, nearly destroyed.

    States went after children’s health insurance, early childhood education, and safety-net services for those with mental illness, in many cases while simultaneously purporting that businesses need tax “relief” because of their horrible struggles. (In this, of course, they were echoed by the U.S. House of Representatives, whose penchant for oil company incentives over children’s health even my 5-year-old called “wacky.” Indeed.)

    We cannot afford to bemoan these policy proposals (some of which made it into law, and some of which were forestalled only by the courageous efforts of advocates and policymakers who deserve our support in November 2012). What we need to do, first, is call them what they are: distractions and assaults, not legitimate plans to address the challenges facing our states.

    We need organizing strategies that address their root causes–the maligning of the “other” and the fault-finding borne of desperation and preyed upon by those with a horribly unjust way of seeing the world. We need coalitions that see a threat to one as a threat to all. We need an agenda that offers a promise of real solutions.

    We need a new year, and a commitment to make great things happen in it.

    Fighting fear with fear?

    Flickr Commons photo of Arizona protests

    I hate it when really effective messages are off-limits because they’re just so…ethically suspect.

    I’m actually not convinced that this particular quandry falls into that category, so I guess what I’m hoping for is some guidance. Because it’s a question that needs to be faced, not just in the immigrant rights community, as I’m dealing with here, but more broadly among social justice advocates at large.

    Here’s the deal:

    So we acknowledge that the pervasive use of fear as a messaging component, and, indeed, an overarching political strategy is problematic, right? We want social policy that appeals to people’s best ideals and greatest hopes, not their basest anxieties. We know that the former is how we arrive at policy that uplifts and affirms and builds, rather than that which divides and denigrates and destroys. We deplore the use of fear-laden imagery in the policy campaigns that are directed against our communities and those we serve, and which label those individuals as “other”, raising specters of dire consequences if one’s desired policy objectives are not pursued.

    And yet.

    When it comes to opposing some of the onerous (and, indeed, odious) legislation aimed at immigrants, we find that using fear as a messaging strategy is, in fact, quite effective. It saves us from having to label as morally “bad” that which absolutely is, and it can sometimes allow us to sidestep the whole, “how do we treat newcomers in our midst” question in the first place, by shifting the focus to our fears about the implications for other sectors of the community.

    And we can win.

    When we talk about Arizona-style profiling legislation as “show me your papers” proposals that will intrude upon the lives of U.S. citizens, we’re tapping into fears about police states and encroaching authority. When we project that employer sanctions bills will decimate whole industries and lead to economic collapses, we’re relying on latent (and not-so-latent) fears about the precariousness of the current economy.

    We’re not lying. Those are real dangers, and real possible impacts. And therein lies the dilemma; if this was a question about truth or not, we wouldn’t have an ethical quandry, just a question about our commitment to integrity in advocacy practice. The dilemma comes from deciding between what we can do and what we should do, and between short-term expediency and long-term shifting of the foundation from which our policies spring.

    And, again, this isn’t limited to the immigrant rights arena. What about when we talk about investing in early childhood education as a way to save later costs in incarceration? Or public health as a way to ward off epidemics? Or…fill in the blank for your particular area of emphasis?

    Why don’t we, instead, use messages that emphasize our universal humanity, the right of everyone to quality education and adequate health care and economic security?

    Because those messages don’t have as much “pop”, quite honestly, as the scary ones. We know from psychological research and the consistent advice of those high-dollar communications consultants that fear sells, and that we are more motivated to act on our fears than on our dreams. And so we rely on those same techniques, and different variants of those same messages, to make our points, even though, when we stop to think about it, we’re a little squeamish about doing precisely what we abhor in the abstract.

    So, again, my question is this: Should we focus on energies on shifting the conversation, knowing that if we don’t move away from fear as the conduit, others are unlikely to? Or do we engage in battle on the terms outlined today, because the stakes are just too high not to? Is there a middle ground that’s workable, or how can we make peace with where we think we must be? How do you use fear, and how do you respond to it, and how do you live with it? Does it make a difference, the question of what we’re teaching people to fear? Are there “good” and “bad” fear-based messages and, if so, how can we be sure that we’re only crafting the former?

    How do we move people towards the world as it should be, without becoming entangled in the pervasive fears that inhabit this one?

    “Sacred extremes” in policy development

    One of my favorite blogs, which I’ve mentioned here often before, is Community Organizer 2.0, written by the enthusiastic and wise Debra Askanse. She had a post quite awhile ago that has stuck in my head; I jotted down a line of it and have been carrying it around on my “to think about” list all summer (What? Doesn’t everyone have one of those?). The blog post is about key principles for moving ideas forward, and the piece that resonated most with me is the idea of “sacred extremes”–those essential pieces that make a particular project stand apart, or that are absolutely crucial to its success, around which you must not–cannot–compromise.

    And I’ve been thinking about that idea of sacred extremes, perhaps not surprisingly, in the context of policymaking, and policy advocacy.

    Because, while much of the conventional wisdom around policymaking emphasizes the importance of compromise–and it is inevitable–our statute books are replete with examples of where too much compromised destroyed an idea, diluted a solution, or stunted potential. In the advocacy process, abandoning your sacred extremes can mean death to a coalition, or sour you on the whole policymaking arena, both prices that we really can’t afford to pay.

    So what do I mean, exactly, by “sacred extremes” in policy? How do we know them when we see them? And how do we protect them?

    The memory that echoes in my mind is when a powerful state legislator offered me the “compromise”, in 2004, of an instate tuition bill that would allow immigrant students without lawful status, but whose paperwork was already filed, the opportunity to attend Kansas post-secondary institutions. She knew that we could get that bill through the process pretty easily, in comparison to the complete standstill where we were stuck with the broader instate provision at the time, and it would have still helped a lot of kids.

    But it would have left out all of the hard-working immigrant kids without a line to stand in–for whom there simply is no category of relief–and it would have put our colleges and universities in the business of verifying immigration status for these kids, a dubious expansion of their powers. Undocumented immigrant students, and their right to dream big dreams regardless of the status of their families’ paperwork, were the core of that legislative struggle.

    They were a sacred extreme.

    And so we walked away from that offer.

    Because, ultimately, the only sure way to protect what is most precious in the policy process is to be willing to abandon everything else in order to get it. Even then, there’s a very good chance that losing everything is, indeed, what will happen.

    But when we remember that incrementalism is often code for “give them a little something so that we don’t have to deal with them anymore,” and that policy windows of opportunity are often slammed shut by a tiny victory, it’s a pretty clear choice.

    Without those sacred extremes, we can end up with something that isn’t, in fact, better than nothing.

    Teaching virtually, not virtually teaching

    It has now been about two years since I first started trying to figure out this “blended” (online and traditional classroom instruction) teaching methodology.

    And, although it risks totally jinxing everything, I think I’m finally getting it.

    This semester has been a sort of revelation to me–that the online and in-person learning do not need to happen in these discrete chunks, but can and, indeed, should truly blend throughout the course so that students become accustomed to learning in both venues simultaneously. I’ve also intentionally sought out materials that engage students in interactive learning online, so that they’re not just responding to my content in virtual platforms, but becoming part of a larger community of interest around policy concerns.

    And, perhaps most significantly, it has dawned on me that, since most of my students will, as social workers, consume much of their policy-related information online (rather than in a class discussion format or a peer-reviewed journal), part of my task in these courses should be to help them develop skills to critically consume this material, so that they can analyze and filter and apply similar information throughout their careers.

    Yes, another inspiration that should have occurred to me a long time ago, but, better late…right?

    My favorite part of the blended classes is probably the discussion boards, because I get so much more participation from some of the quieter students than I do in class. This semester, I’m going to use a more detailed course evaluation that assesses student reactions to those individual components, so that I can get a better sense of which pieces they’re actually engaging with, and how those activities are contributing to their overall learning.

    I am, as always, open to new ideas and critiques, but here’s what I’m doing differently this semester that (again, knock on everything!) seems to be working so far:

  • Utilizing course technology to bring in virtual guest speakers–if we can have half of our course content online, why not get guest speakers from Washington, DC (via Skype) to talk about implementation of health care reform?
  • Requiring students to analyze media coverage of policy topics, to heighten their analytical skills and give them practice searching for the frames in a given coverage
  • Integrating short videos and podcasts on policy topics, and, often, using them to replace traditional assigned readings, because they offer much more current analysis than what the peer-reviewed process can provide
  • Working in at least a few “virtual classrooms”, which are sort of like chatrooms, but not in real-time, so that students have a venue in which to ask questions about the course, share materials with each other, and access me
  • Creating online assignments, including the “wiki” resource guides on policymaking that I used last year, too (to provide a nonprofit organization with resources designed to facilitate advocacy in a particular arena) and a presentation about future trends that will impact policy that, by necessity, has to draw almost entirely on online resources

    I’ve only tried to teach policy courses in this blended format, so I certainly can’t speak to the experiences of those teaching (and taking!) practice classes. And I know that some of my students wish that they had the option to take a traditional format policy course, and I respect that. There’s no question that I miss getting to see my students more frequently; in my ideal (albeit overwhelming) world, we’d still meet every week AND have the additional online opportunities.

    Another reason everyone is glad I don’t run the world.

    But my goal with these courses is to create a policy learning experience that transfers as much as possible, and as seamlessly as possible, to social work practice, and I do believe that the inclusion of the online components increases that likelihood.

    Because the real world, after all, is increasingly online.

  • Last one in shut the door?

    In the interest of full disclosure, right from the beginning:

    This is not one of those posts with any helpful lessons to impart.

    I hope that sometimes you find those, and I am more grateful than you can know for those who share their reactions to what I write, particularly as to how my thoughts at least occasionally contribute to your own journeys in advocacy, learning, community work, and the pursuit of justice.

    But, today, I’m just perplexed.

    Not too long ago, I was copied on an email from a teacher friend of mine who was asking her contacts to get involved in the ongoing debate over budgets at our local district and, particularly, at the state level. She wrote a little about the challenges she’s facing in her own classroom and emphasized the importance of parents and other teachers including their voices in the discussion over decisions that will shape our children’s futures.

    You can see why we’re friends, right?

    And I was also copied on the response to her from one of the recipients.

    What struck me most was the line about how wrong it is that all of “these kids” are getting free and reduced lunch. Now, the nuance here, and what I’ve been mulling over, is that she wasn’t upset about her own child NOT getting free and reduced lunch. Her apparent anger, expressed on a computer screen, was not over some injustice visited upon her own family, but on the injustice she perceived in someone else’s receipt of something.

    Now, to some extent, I get this: I’m upset, for example, when corporations get huge tax breaks that undermine our nation’s financial security, and it’s not because I think I should be getting one, too, but because I object to the basis on which that entitlement is granted.

    And maybe that’s where her outrage is coming from, even though her email didn’t reference anything about the costs of the free and reduced lunch program, and even though (whether she knows it or not) our district actually gets more money because of the presence of these students–federal money pays for the meals themselves, and the students receive additional weightings in our school finance formula as “at-risk” students: money that the district then uses to fund our overall educational system, including that of her own child.

    But a conversation I had with my own state representative the other day made me think that maybe it’s not even this “we can’t afford it so they shouldn’t get it” rationale, at least not explicitly. She and I were talking about our state’s instate tuition policy, her support of it, and some of the communications she has received from constituents about that support. Her exact quote was something along the lines of, “I can’t understand how people can be so upset about others getting something that doesn’t affect them at all. It’s like they want to deny it just for spite.”

    When undocumented immigrants, even immigrant kids, are concerned, I certainly wouldn’t rule out the influence of spite.

    And certainly it could be immigrant children and those who look like them who were in the mind of the woman upset about free lunches (the literal kind), too.

    Because our instate tuition policy does not cost the state. The students pay full price, and our higher educational system isn’t funded on a per-pupil basis anyway. The universities themselves, who certainly wouldn’t support a policy that harmed them, have been the strongest supporters. And the constituents that are contacting my representative are, themselves, also eligible for instate tuition, if they chose to attend one of our state schools.

    So they’re not upset because they aren’t getting something, and they can’t even be upset because they’re paying for someone else to get something.

    Instead, it’s more of a scarcity thinking, kind of to the extreme, what I’ve been mentally labeling a “last one in shut the door behind you” mentality, that views one’s own gains in life as so precious that denying those same tools to others seems like the only way to preserve them.

    And, I’ll admit. I just don’t get it.

    I think that I need to, because this kind of thinking is finding its way into our public policies, and because I need to know how to advocate with those who have adopted this “I don’t need it but no one else should have it” rationale. But I can’t quite crack the code, so to speak, to figure out where to start. Which is why this post doesn’t have answers.

    Please, wise readers: help me. Where have you encountered these same reactions, and to what do you attribute them? What am I missing that would make this make sense, and where do I start in building some bridges (at least in communication) with those who approach life from this perspective?

    Nonprofit Policy Forum: A peer-reviewed journal for geeks like me

    I know. It’s not every day that someone’s getting emotional about a peer-reviewed journal. I mean, who uses the term “peer-reviewed” in conversation, anyway?

    But, people.

    Put yourself in my shoes.

    This thing rocks.

    The Nonprofit Policy Forum is a pretty new journal, which, in today’s age of the declining significance of print media, is fairly significant itself.

    And its content is all available online, which is huge in the world of the peer-reviewed, since my former students find themselves abruptly excluded from academic literature as soon as their access to the university’s considerable subscription library expires.

    AND, it focuses on policy process and content, and how both affect and are affected by the nonprofit sector. In other words, giving greater official legitimacy to the study and practice of advocacy and policy change, by nonprofit organizations, as well as discussing emerging policy trends that impact how nonprofits operate.

    So, now you understand.

    In the first issue, which is the only journal I can remember ever reading in its entirety, is an article reporting that putting clients (here, “constituents”) on a nonprofit Board of Directors and increasing their participation in strategic decision-making significantly increases the intensity of the organization’s advocacy, just as receipt of government and foundation grants tends to decrease it.

    In other words: what we know to be true about the countervailing pressures that weigh on nonprofit organizations in the advocacy arena, confirmed empirically and actually citable. Oh, happy day!

    There’s also an interview with Ambassador Andrew Young, specifically discussing the effectiveness (and limitations thereof) nonprofit organizations in shaping policy and a conceptual paper outlining how foundations can approach their philanthropy with an eye towards transformation and systems change. And an article introducing the challenges related to the emergence of social businesses has particular relevance for social workers, who can struggle at times to find ways to practice ethically and effectively in these newer organizational models.

    I’m never one to pretend that academic journals make the world go ’round. Perhaps that’s part of why I’m so hard-pressed to find the time to submit to them?

    But, when sometimes I feel very much like an outlier in the world of academia, given my particular areas of interest, it is very affirming to find communities of like-minded souls, and to be able to turn to their ideas on which to build my own. The way that scholarship is supposed to work.

    Here’s to happy reading (and citing)!