How to Find the Magic Middle Between Awareness & Action in Advocacy

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By Jill Winsor and Jenny Lee

On November 16 and 17 we had the pleasure of working with Tanya Beer from the Center for Evaluation Innovation. Tanya shared the Center’s Framework for Policy Advocacy and challenged us to remember that when we engage in advocacy, we must do more than simply build awareness around our issue, we must move people to take action.

Will: The Magic Middle

Often in this work we spend a significant amount of time on education and awareness building even though we know that changes in awareness do not lead to changes in behavior! Tanya helped us hone in on the magic middle between awareness and action – will. She explained that will is built from the combination of opinion, intensity of opinion, salience of the issue, willingness to act and capacity to act.

We spent some time thinking about tactics that help build will and help move different actors toward policy change. We also took a look at the level of skill that each of our own organizations have with those tactics. For example, we know that in order for the Oregon Asset Building Coalition to move the Children’s Savings Account campaign, we may need to engage in community mobilization as well as champion development.

Some members of the OR ABC Coalition have more experience and expertise in community organizing while other members have easy access to and strong relationships with legislators who may serve as our champions. Looking at the campaign in this way helped us understand that there is a lot of work to be done but we can each play the roles that are most appropriate for our organizations based on our strengths and expertise.

Day One: Oregon Asset Building Coalition

On Monday afternoon the OR ABC did some great work thinking about who we need to tap to join us in this work and with Tanya’s help, we were able to think about next steps moving forward. It felt like everyone in the room was ready to start spreading the word about the magic of CSAs and bringing folks to the table! We will be in touch soon to follow up on our next steps for designing the CSA platform.

Day Two: Oregon Housing Alliance

After learning about the matrix and the tactics needed to reach different audiences and increase their levels of engagement, the Housing Alliance members each placed dots next to tactics that the coalition excelled at, such as messaging, and areas for improvement, like community organizing. This visual representation set the tone for the next exercise, where members rated the coalition’s capacity, identified key themes, and proposed action steps for advancing the coalition. During the course of the work session, Housing Alliance members were able to have an honest conversation about the work of the coalition and left feeling excited about using this framework to build our collective capacity.