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Grassroots Advocacy – the Underutilized Change Agent of the People

May 4, 2017

Anonymous crowd of people walking on city street

So now what?”

That’s the question that lingers long after an administration change at any level. Depending on what side of the aisle you lean toward or sit on, that question can be loaded with optimism or backfilled with a sense of dread.

Instead of taking sides, I want to debunk this all or nothing thinking and harsh segregation of winners and losers – and dispel that the only option rests in the long run-up for another turn at bat. Rather, in a democracy, and as people who have the right to vote and the ability to hold elected officials accountable, we should be reminded that we have three things going for us at all times.

The opportunity to show up. Not just on the first Tuesday of November, but those hundreds of days between elections. Do you know what your elected officials think about the issues that matter most to you? Get to know those who represent you. Meet them in their districts, invite them to your organization. This level of engagement is not strictly for lobbyists and corporations. It’s for all of us.

The courage to speak up. Having an opinion is one thing. Voicing it in a way that simply adds to the noise is another. But having a well-reasoned set of messages is something quite different and more effective. By articulating the impact of, say, federal or state budget cuts, or the unintended consequences of a particular bill, organizations can provide much needed context. They also give a voice – and a face – to those impacted. Local organizations can benefit from their statewide and/or national counterparts who are often helping to set the tone and define the message.

The ability to be heard. Solutions are rarely black or white, left or right, all or nothing. While “bipartisan” may seem to be a thing of the past right now, most of us – including those who serve us in office – are still more passionate about issues than ideology, and care more about people than platforms. I can say this with confidence because we’ve see it time and again when elected officials agree with a position that was assumed they wouldn’t even be receptive to hearing.

This is grassroots advocacy – and it’s the underutilized change agent of the people.

Whether or not our desired candidates are in office today, we still have a choice. We can choose to stand on the sideline and bemoan outcomes and decisions that don’t align with our thinking, or we can re-engage with our open government the way it was intended.

Although the 2016 election may be history, the future is still undecided regarding the issues and policies yet to go into place. As we just witnessed with the Affordable Care Act, nothing is a given. Perhaps that’s all the more reason we need to give credence to our full ability to affect our future.