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Excellent Advocacy

Here’s something a little more upbeat to balance my last post!

It’s so exciting to see the social sector getting so strategic about advocacy.  Well, actually I think there is a proud history here, but I happen to be jazzed about a couple of specific examples of smart advocacy that I’ve heard about recently.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Greg Small, executive director of Climate Solutions, recently.  He filled me in on the evolution and successes of Priorities for a Healthy Washington, a collaborative effort by environmental organizations to set statewide advocacy priorities—four per year—that everyone gets behind.  They have had great success in getting legislation passed in support of these democratically chosen priorities (one organization, one vote) for several years running.   Their annual prioritization process allows for vetting proposals internally and feasibility testing through dialogue with key political leaders.  It’s real collaboration, and it’s getting real results.  The structure of the collaboration is simple, and seems to be working due to strong, trusted leadership.  And with the results they have been able to achieve, the flywheel is moving now, as Jim Collins would say.

I also recently heard Patti Whitney-Wise speak about the Oregon Hunger Relief Task Force.  This is a highly successful collaborative effort to reduce hunger in Oregon, where leaders were shocked to learn that Oregon’s hunger rate was among the highest in the country, and resolved to take action.  Their roadmap is Act to End Hunger: 40 Ways in Five Years to Make a Difference, a strategic plan that outlines roles for funders, nonprofits, government, and community members to contribute to the campaign.  The Children’s Alliance is spearheading a similar campaign here called End Childhood Hunger, and I hope more funders and community members will get behind it.

Please note that in addition to the stars aligning, these groups managed to prioritize effectively.  They have diverse constituencies who came to believe they would accomplish more by focusing on a common cause, even if it meant compromising some on their individual organizational agenda.  While I know this approach is not a panacea, I hope and see evidence that some of the other sectors I’ve been working with, such as anti-violence advocates and organizations serving people with disabilities, will follow suit.

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