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 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.
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.