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Social Work Advocacy in Tough Times How you can integrate effective advocacy into your social work practice, to strengthen your organization and better.

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Presentation on theme: "Social Work Advocacy in Tough Times How you can integrate effective advocacy into your social work practice, to strengthen your organization and better."— Presentation transcript:

1 Social Work Advocacy in Tough Times How you can integrate effective advocacy into your social work practice, to strengthen your organization and better serve your clients

2 Who said this? And when? We are all being told that we have to be pragmatic and recognize that this is not a good year for social issues, especially if they cost money. That implies that there may yet be a good year for social issues, if only we have patience. But no Congress has ever come to Washington vowing to make things right for the poor, the vulnerable, for workers, or for the environment. In that sense, this year is different only in degree.

3 You CAN do Advocacy Advocacy that does NOT include a call to action (including most community practice) is NOT lobbying and is, therefore, unlimited! Educating community, tracking bills, leadership development, nonpartisan voter registration Nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations are allowed to lobby. For non-electing organizations, lobbying must be no substantial part of a charitys activities. This includes expenditures, time and energy devoted by staff and volunteers, and success in achieving advocacy goals. The 501(h) election allows nonprofit organizations to lobby with greater clarity and less worry. By filling out a simple 501(h) form, 501(c)3 organizations can be judged instead by specific dollar limits set on lobbying. Can turn into the IRS at any time; keep a copy for your records These nonprofits have no limits on their free (volunteer) lobbying activities and can spend up to 20% of the first $500,000 of their annual organizations budget on lobbying (although no more than 25% of this can be spent on grassroots lobbying).

4 Heres what we can and cant do Safe Activities Public education about policy issues (with a call to action, it counts as lobbying) Nonpartisan voter registration drives Candidate surveys (with guidance) Lobbying within legal limits Policy analysis without a call to action Unsafe Activities Candidate endorsements Campaign contributions Candidate pledges Partisan GOTV Exceeding lobbying limits, or failing to keep track of lobbying activities Failing to distinguish between grassroots and direct lobbying

5 You SHOULD Do Advocacy The NASW Code of Ethics includes some specific mandates to engage in advocacy challenge social injustice, advocate within and outside their agencies for adequate resources to meet clients needs (3.07a) advocate for living conditions conducive to the fulfillment of basic human needs and should promote social, economic, political, and cultural values and institutions that are compatible with the realization of social justice (6.01) engage in social and political action that seeks to ensure that all people have equal access to the resources, employment, services, and opportunities they require to meet their basic human needs and to develop fully (6.04a). There are also implicit requirements to engage in advocacy, as it is necessary in order to promote the well-being of their clients (1.01), and to fulfill the social work mission statement (given that the status quo creates and perpetuates social problems and human need). None of these requirements are conditioned on availability of resources (including time, staff, or money).

6 Why now? Times are tight, and everything is on the chopping block: For FY2009, Kansas had a $186 million gap and Missouri a $542 million gap in general funds For FY2010, Kansas faces a gap of 22% of the general fund; Missouri of more than 10% Across the country, states are closing these gaps by cutting education, services to elderly and disabled, state workforce, and other social welfare functions. Nationally, despite a more progressive administration, we have a long way to go: All non-defense discretionary spending accounts for only 18% of the federal budget (divided up among all of our social welfare work, plus transportation and environment and lots more) U.S. has lower rate of social welfare investment than most other developed countries, and it showsfamilies more vulnerable, communities more strained

7 But its so bad, we cant expect much… The Great Depression brought us Social Security, the cornerstone of our social insurance system, single- handedly responsible for lifting millions of children and seniors out of poverty The late 1960s, in the middle of an ugly war in Vietnam, Congress passed Food Stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, and milestone civil rights legislation We have real opportunities, even in these budget times Public opinion more amenable to investments, because pain is shared Some sympathetic members of Congress looking to retain seats Greater technical expertise has shown us what works and allowed us to prove it Strengths-based social workers: what else?

8 Okay, but how?

9 From clients to constituents to leaders Engaging those you serve as full partners not only practices empowerment and leads towards their actualization, but it also reduces the demands on professional staff Requires a mental shift from staff: using new language, renegotiating boundaries Expect some time to adjust and some role confusion initially Introduce social action into your practice

10 Legislative Advocacy WHAT WORKS RELATIONSHIPS! Appeal to interests Requires getting to know what they care about, getting affected individuals in front of them, and meeting in person whenever possible Present accurate, compelling information In accessible format, that makes them look informed Make an electoral case How it will affect them in direct votes or overall electability Use media and public pressure Minimize controversy by controlling the debate WHAT DOESNT s or other mass communication from those outside of their districts Threats related to their elections Solely emotional appeals (or solely intellectual ones)will only firm up your existing support Relying on allies to carry your message for you (especially paid lobbyists, who have connections but not your passion) Using the exact same message/strategy for all policymakers Ignoring the staff to focus only on lawmakers

11 Low-Investment Strategies that Work Federal legislative advocacy you dont have to go to Washington, DC!: In-district delegations Teleconference to DC staffers Legislative open house at your agency Use media to reach Letters and phone calls still matter State legislative advocacy: Call on your issues Visit on Fridays, off-session Target committees and work with your networks

12 Dont forget local government! Cities and counties control disbursement of many state and federal funds, zoning and other local regulations that affect NPOs, and direct provision of core services Local scale facilitates relationship-building: Attend hearings (with clients) Meet directly with council people Work with staff on technical solutions Ask local officials to intervene on state and federal issues, too

13 Get inspiredsuccess stories! MASW and tax credit for Individual Development Accounts KAC and booster seat law KIDS accounts in Learning Quest Instate tuition in Kansas UCS, Kansas Catholic Conference and KS EITC

14 Regulatory Advocacy Many of the details that give policies their teeth are found in regulations, not legislation Monitoring this implementation can expose potential problems and opportunities, but intentional intervention is needed Work with agency staff in advance of drafting, submit formal comments, use media to spur change/increase compliance

15 How to win with regulations Play defense: against restrictive eligibility rules, inadequate staffing ratios, inaccurate definitions, conflicting rules, erosion of your legislative victories Win what you couldnt win legislatively: more expansive eligibility, larger program mandate, stronger appeal/civil rights protections

16 Get inspiredsuccess stories! REAL ID Actstalled in the regulations phase, put more pressure on Congress for concessions Safe food advocates have used rule-making to improve safety standards for meat in school, pasteurized milk, and other products Environmental advocates work through regulations to strengthen protections in clean air/water, endangered species, and other critical environmental legislation

17 Judicial Advocacy Judiciarys role especially important when legislatures and executives constrained by budget concerns Make policy without regard to fiscal implications Can intervene with injunctions, oversight, contempt of court Advocates use courts to obtain information, seek redress, force negotiation, inform public

18 Why would I want to go to court? And do I have to be a lawyer? Heightened exposure people pay attention to lawsuits Possibility of dramatic, even expensive, changes Can recoup legal costs if successful Create new legal rights for clientsfoundation for future advocacy Can recruit plaintiffs or intervenors Author amicus curiae briefs (or just sign) Conduct background research Fundraise to defray costs or recruit pro bono representation Provide media support

19 Get inspiredsuccess stories! Goldberg v. Kelley (property right to receive welfare, 1970) King v. Smith (ended man-in-the-house and other discriminatory welfare rules, 1968) Brown v. BOE (1954)and much of civil rights movement Olmstead v. L.C. Ex Rel. Zimring (unwarranted institutionalization is a form of discrimination, 1999) Bradley v. Haley (2000, mental health care for incarcerated) Several SPLC cases against hate groups (1980s, 1990s,see Penny Doe v. Richardson (1998, homeless childrens right to education)

20 Agency Advocacy Sometimes, it is our own social work agency whose policies are contrary to our clients (and our) interests Turning our advocacy inward can have dramatic impact on client well-being, since this is a point of direct contact: Program goals: what is success? Evaluation techniques and outcomes measures Staffing levels and requirements Controlling access (one of our most powerful tools): Eligibility rules Incentives and sanctions Accessibility (hours, locations, language) Processes (appeals, notice of budget decisions) Access to power (Board, transparency) Implementation decisions

21 How to do this without (hopefully) losing your job? Understand the organizational imperatives driving your agency, and appeal to those Advocate for change consistent with organizational cultureroot in core values Build a coalition for change Document the problem, your proposed solution, steps youre taking, responses

22 Get inspiredsuccess stories! Clients change a mental health centers policy on no-shows for transportation service Staff change hours of service to accommodate client schedules Agency adds clients to Board and provides simultaneous translation

23 Media Advocacy Editorials Meetings with editorial boards, prepare materials specific to their communities, have a hook Letters to the editor Draft letters to be submitted by allies Earned media Press advisories, relationships with reporters who cover statehouse/Congress/local government, organization of events to generate coverage, prepare multiple responses as contingencies for votes/actions Paid advertising (only buy what you cant get otherwise) Collecting information from reporters Sharing media coverage with policymakers In packets, for visits, with staff

24 Even if you have to be on TV, its worth it! Increased exposureincluding to potential donors Ability to set the tone/parameters of debate on your issues Relationships with media professionals Practice telling your storyan essential part of fundraising Social media=not just conveying content but making connections

25 Get InspiredSuccess Stories! A. in the Kansas City Star Invisible Kansans (YouTube, billboard) Susan Wagle and the Wichita Eagle editorial Piedmont Peace Project We are Marie campaign

26 Get StartedEasy Ways to Begin Write letters, call, send s to elected officials Everybody does this after one staff meeting (5 minutes) Make the connections between cases and causes with staff, clients, and community Committee to discuss common concerns, or electronic way of tracking systemic problems (meet 4x/year) Watch for news coverage of political or policy issues Commitment to respond with a press release or letter to the editor 2x/year Engage your clients Voter registration at intake, invitations to participate Comment on regulations Sign up for alerts from like-minded organizations Join a coalition in the community, designate a staff member to forward pertinent alerts, use social media to connect with relevant organizations/causes

27 Once you get hooked… Sponsor a Lobby Day for your organization or issue Set up visits for Board members, a group of clients, and some staff Host a public forum with candidates or elected officials Collaborate with other organizations/coalitions Organize a campaign to generate calls to legislators Use your donor files (people enjoy being asked for something besides $$!) Publish a regular community newsletter Feature your organizations achievements as well as key policy/community concerns Testify at committee hearings with clients Work with legislators to draft and move bills Follow up with your clients for GOTV Get students or volunteers to make phone calls 2 weeks before Election Day

28 Measuring Impact and Claiming Victory Have a clear theory of change Convert the process goals we commonly use in advocacy to outcome indicators. Balance realistic and aspirational goals as we set our benchmarks. Push back somewhat on the drive towards quantification of results

29 Making the Case: Advocacy and the Agency Bottom Line Approach your leadership as you would any advocacy targetyour aim is to convince and compel There are absolutely risks, but organizations that engage in advocacy often see: Enhanced visibility and reputation Greater aura of expertise Enhanced client loyalty/commitment Greater staff creativity and passion, lower turnover Greater stabilitypower helps to weather storms

30 Resources to Help Handouts provided: Web resources Lobbying tips How to write letters to the editor Media tips State legislative overviews Tips on working with media blog on social work advocacy and organizing

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