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August Advocacy Blitz: Tips from Opportunity Nation Coalition members

by Opportunity Nation   •  

Our Coalition members are at the center of our work, especially when we know the importance of leveraging voices from the field to drive conversations with local policymakers. With that in mind, we’ve held three webinars featuring voices from our Coalition (you can view the full webinars here) with tips and tricks for our August Advocacy Blitz. Here are some tips and examples for how to engage policymakers.

Tips on how to talk about the Opportunity Index

Sandra Harrison, Co-Founder & Director of Training & Development of Leaders in Transformational Education (LITE), says LITE uses the Opportunity Index to be more explicit in determining how and where service providers can maximize individual, family and community impact.

  • The pitch: the Opportunity Index tells us how many young people are dropping out of school and where they’re dropping out, enabling us to pinpoint where and how we should establish and mobilize our networks.

Florida Prosperity Partnership uses the Opportunity Index to inform the work of partners across Florida that provide pathways to economic security —  mostly nonprofits and financial institutions, according to Bill Mills, President & CEO.

  • The pitch: the Opportunity Index is a measure of economic opportunity compiled by Opportunity Nation, a bipartisan campaign working to expand economic mobility. It offers context and insight about why we do what we do and the areas we need to improve.

Tips on organizing at the grasstops and grassroots levels

With a focus on grassroots organizing and mobilizing, Kimberly Pham, Opportunity Leader & National Council of Young Leaders, Opportunity Youth United Member suggests fostering strong relationships by meeting community members where they are and creating opportunities to listen and learn. She also suggests maintaining regular communications and implementing formalized processes for engaging partners, including leveraging memorandums of understanding. Kimberly also shared some lessons from her work developing the Philadelphia Community Action Team:

  • Craft effective communications strategies
  • Facilitate re-introductions
  • Measure success with key benchmarks

Mary Chapman, Vice President Emeritus of Des Moines Area Community College and Opportunity Iowa Strategist, offers advice on grasstops organizing and mobilizing:

  • Know your network and key influencers
  • Connect the dots
    • Align your mission with influencers’
    • Acknowledge key Opportunity Index indicators and existing gaps
  • Leverage influencers’ networks
  • Key benchmarks for Opportunity Iowa
    • Gubernatorial proclamation
    • Statewide Opportunity Forum
    • Continued engagement and collaboration as evidenced by: convening regular roundtables with key influencers, updating elected officials on progress and data included in the latest Opportunity Index, and identifying new initiatives for collaboration

Joshua Mbanusi, Program Associate at MDC, Inc./Made in Durham suggests starting with a big, bold vision and to make the case for grasstops engagement with the understanding that not all grasstops leaders are the same.

Grasstops engagement is person-centered, delicate and intentional and selecting the right messenger is critical.

Some lessons learned from Made in Durham:

  • Organize locally and score quick wins
  • Progress moves at the speed of trust
  • Strong staffing support is essential
  • Grasstops and grassroots together equal a stronger strategy

Tips on crafting policy requests

Erica Cuevas, Policy Manager at Jobs for the Future, stressed the importance of building relationships and identifying key decision-makers before developing succinct policy recommendations.

Policy requests should always reference data, highlight examples and be specific.

Nick Hutchinson, Executive Director of US2020, shared how he anchors conversations to Opportunity Millennium Goals by connecting the big visions to the impact they would have on constituents. He also shared some general tips about making policy requests:

  • Speak to policymakers’ individual priorities
  • Be crystal clear – in writing – about the recommended action
  • Create visibility around policymakers’ support by writing a letter to the editor about their support, or thanking policymakers for their support on social media
  • Be a resource: collaborate with like-minded organizations around common goals and agendas
  • Get the right messenger for your message

Jonathan Hasak, Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs at Year Up, gave insight into Year Up’s national policy principles:

  • Align systems to employer demand
  • Facilitate cross-sector collaboration
  • Focus on outcomes and results
  • Secure opportunity for all youth

Join us and get involved today! Commit to action and check out our Coalition Communications Guide and more resources to help you get started, including an August Advocacy Blitz toolkit. We’d love to see you in action! You can also join the conversation on social media with #OppNationActs and #ExpandOpportunity.

Do you have great tips to share that you think others might find helpful? Email them to Juanita at jtolliver@opportunitynation.org so we can share them with the Coalition network.

Opportunity Nation Opportunity Nation is a bipartisan, national campaign comprised of more than 350 businesses, educational institutions, nonprofits and civic organizations working together to expand economic mobility and close the opportunity gap in America.

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