Strategic Communications

We have long understood the importance of speaking about the values that shape and inform our work. How people hear us is as much a key to successful communication as the accuracy of our facts and figures.


In 2004 we needed a new narrative about the value of affordable housing and its community benefits. That need kicked off years of successful work in strategic communications. We first partnered with Larry Wallack of Portland State University and the affordable housing community. The group worked hard to develop strategic messages that made an immediate impact. Five years later we brought Patrick Bresette of Public Works to Oregon to present research and lead trainings.  These trainings led eventually to the development and evolution of the Advocates College.

Advocates College

Advocates College has delivered intensive multi-month trainings for five years to five cohorts. Trainings are for executive directors, communication professionals, and advocacy professionals of nonprofit and public organizations. These individuals work within and across interest groups to test and refine advocacy messages that promote a common vision. When we offer an Advocates College and invite people to apply, we select participants who have a clear issue focus and advocacy or campaign plan, a commitment to strategic communications, and recognition that building public support for governmental action and resources is an underlying priority.  Through Advocates College, participants gain skills and tools to effectively advance their own organizational or coalition agendas – key pieces in creating the Oregon we envision. We also conduct “mini-Advocates College” trainings, which are condensed trainings.

New Research

Most of us have a vague sense that we’re supposed to be able to change things. However, we often feel like subjects rather than participants. We don’t feel like agents of change in a thriving democracy. How do we break the barrier between the vision we have for our communities and the lack of agency we perceive? Researchers at The Topos Partnership and Indivisible have some answers in new research titled “Reclaiming Government for America’s Future.” The research, conducted over more than a year, tells us that the path to empowerment begins by talking about a country that is both “for the people” and “by the people”; acknowledging that we currently don’t have the say in government that we’re supposed to have; highlighting how people have acted to make changes; and that there are tools for every single person to do more. By guiding the conversation about government from one of helplessness to empowerment, we can begin to make the change that comes from residents having more say in our laws and how we spend public money. Read the blog post and full report.

Neighborhood Partnerships is an invaluable resource for creating lasting change that builds safe, healthy individuals, families, and communities throughout Oregon. The Advocates College training I received has transformed the way that I talk about crime victims’ needs. It was also transformative in the way that elected officials heard what victims need. Keeping a focus on where we want to go to build safe, healthy families and communities—instead of what isn’t currently working—has opened a lot of conversations, minds, and hearts. Our advocacy helped to double funding for domestic and sexual violence services in 2013. I cannot recommend Advocates College enough! This training is a must for anyone who advocates for people who have been marginalized—we are all connected in the community, and Advocates College helps us get out of our unproductive silos and make those messaging connections.

Kerry Naughton, Crime Survivors Program Director Partnership for Safety and Justice

I came to the 2016 Neighborhood Partnerships Advocates College with a ten year professional background in union organizing, policy, and politics.  Advocates College was appealing to me as a resource to review and refine my communication skills.  I got so much more out of my class than I expected.  The coursework was interesting and the instructors set a high bar.  I appreciated feeling challenged while having a good time.

I made professional connections with other students and it opened up a world of messaging and framing research that continues to interest me and be useful to my work.

Casey Filice Multnomah County Department of Human Services