Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Let's Stretch the Advocacy Muscles

By Mikaila Gawryn
Outreach Associate

I'll admit it, I am an advocacy lightweight. Up until very recently I lived life believing that I was one of those people that took action "on the ground" instead of in politics. Arrogance aside this probably came from the fact that I didn't think I could make much of a difference in politics. I was much more into volunteering, changing one lightbulb at a time, that sort of thing. And then
I heard someone ask the question "How good are those light bulbs if the energy company is grossly inefficient?" She explained to me that the power of my individual action could be magnified, when I worked within a larger system. Thus, I decided to pick up the weights, even if I had to start very small.

Government 101

Of the three branches of government the legislative branch is responsible for listening to the people (who vote them in and out of office!), and forming laws based upon the people’s will. In the legislative branch there are three levels of government, depending on what kinds of laws you want to create. These levels are the federal, state and local branches. As citizens we have access to these branches, because they represent us!

Legislative Branch

Federal: congress (Senate and House of Representatives)
State: legislature (Senate and House of Representatives)
Local: city council (some cities have different names)

Perhaps you don't feel like "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" material (I sure don't!). The great news is that you don't have to be versed in political lingo or fluent in the scientific terminology of an issue. In fact, as Jessie Dye, our Outreach Coordinator often says, political advocacy is as easy as ordering pizza.

1) Know what you want on your pizza. If you’re not an expert on an issue find one that you trust and see what they are advocating for. Many organizations have the time and resources to research important issues and summarize what they believe should be done, take advantage of this!

2) Know who to call to get your pizza. Call the toll-free Legislative hotline to convey your views on bills and issues. Give the nice operators your name and address (like the pizza place) and they will contact your legislators for you. Tell the operator what bills or issues you are supporting and why; the why involves your values. Remember, you don’t have to explain or defend specific points, any more than you have to tell them how to make the pizza. Legislative Hotline: 1-800-562-6000

Ten to fifteen contacts is all it takes to get the attention of a representative.

Already have the legislative hotline on speed dail? When the legislature is in session call you representative at their office. Or go to the Washington State Legislature website, click and email them. 10-15 calls or letters to a legislator is enough to get their attention. One way to expand the impact of one call is to set up a phone tree. Telephone Trees are time-honored because they work. They work because most people respond better to a personal call from someone they know than to an impersonal piece of mail or message. The mechanics are pretty straight forward.

Finally, accept the invitation to speak through the media. Local papers have Letter To The Editor sections and online forums where you can post your thoughts on issues for other citizens and representatives to read. These venues are a breeding ground for conversation on contemporary issues and are taken seriously as one way for the voice of the people to speak. Take a look at these opportunities for participation in local media or similar ones near you:

Seattle PI-Sound Off

Seattle Times Letters to the Editor

So let's try this advocacy thing out! Luckily we have lots of issues to talk to our representatives about. See you at the Capitol!


Advocacy Essentials Handout, Jessie Dye
Faith Based Advocacy, Jessie Dye
EM 2008 Advocacy Days Bulletin
Effort to Overturn 20-cent Bag Tax, Kathy Mulady & Amy Rolph
Effort to Overturn 20-cent Bag Tax, Kathy Mulady & Amy Rolph

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