Editor’s Note: Part of your job as an early childhood leader is to spark conversations and raise awareness about the importance of early care and education. But for many of us, the word “advocacy” seems intimidating and hard to manage. Throughout the next several weeks the McCormick Center will publish blog posts that provide some tips for diving in and getting started.
In Part I I talked about ways to start advocating by sharing your story in informal conversations. Today, I’ll share thoughts on participating in more formal advocacy work–the kind in which you talk to a legislator or policymaker.
If you are ready for more formal advocacy work but don’t know where to begin I would strongly encourage you to find an organization that is holding an advocacy event or has an advocacy toolkit which you can use.
Reflecting Back on My First Formal Advocacy Experience
The first time I participated in this type of advocacy was with Illinois Action for Children at a Parent Rally Day event. I was a director of a center at the time and everything about the rally event made me feel more comfortable with the process. We recruited parents to come. We rode on a bus to the state capitol. The president and CEO gave an inspiring speech to get the parents and other advocates from across the state pumped up to be there. There was a strong, organized, and consistent message. We were given talking points, were shown how to call our legislators out of session to talk with us, and were given assistance navigating through the maze of legislator offices so we could meet with them.
Even with all of this help I still felt intimated to call upon a state legislator. In hindsight, however, I’m not sure why I was so nervous. My legislator works for me! I should be able to speak to him or her about issues I feel are important.
That said, I know this is not something I would have ever done without guidance. It is great to find an organization which is dedicated to helping support novice advocates. I’m quite sure that every state has an organization that can help with advocacy actions. Here are a few resources to get you started:
Also, be sure to check out this year’s Leadership Connections preconference session, Changing the World for Children: Six Steps to Advocacy, on May 13 presented by Ken Jaffe to take a deeper dive into this topic.
Do you have a story to tell that might help a new or wanna-be-advocate get started? What organizations have helped you along the way? Share your thoughts below.View Part 1