Advocacy tips from the pros

Chicago ONE Congressional District Leader Kyle Deming shares tips on how to translate your passion into effective advocacy.

A few weeks ago, ONE Regional Field Director Tzviatko Chiderov and I led an “Advocacy in Action” event at Wicker Park in Chicago. The purpose of the event was two-fold: first, to provide current and prospective ONE members with up-to-date information about what ONE does, and second, to give people who are passionate about these issues a chance to take some explicit actions that will make their voices heard.

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Kyle Deming oversees the letter writing process. Photo credit: Kyle Deming

The event began with a presentation explaining the state of the world in which we live, a world with 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty, struggling to survive on less than $1.25 per day. Although this is a big challenge to confront, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of our victories. With the help of critical aid programs, we’ve managed to:

- Increase the number of people on lifesaving HIV/AIDS medicine from 400,000 to 8 million in 10 years

- Get 50 million more children in schools in the last decade, and

- Cut malaria deaths in half in 8 African countries.

Many Americans believe that 15 to 25 percent of our budget is spent on international aid. In reality, we spend less than 1 percent of the budget on these programs. It’s amazing that we are able to accomplish so much good with so little money.

However, there are risks that even this small percentage of the budget will face cuts. On March 1, sequestration (across-the-board cuts) will go into effect unless Congress strikes a better deal. The likely consequence of these cuts, including 1.3 million fewer vaccines for children and 21,000 new babies born with HIV, will be a disaster for the world’s most vulnerable – even though it will not make a noticeable dent in the US budget deficit.

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Kyle Deming discusses the current budget situation and how it affects the world’s poorest. Photo credit: Kyle Deming

With so much on the line, we transitioned to discussing ways that we can effectively advocate for the world’s poor. Tzviatko shared some important tips for effective advocacy: know your facts, stay on message, and don’t fall into partisan politics. He also discussed some of the following effective forms of advocacy:

Letter writing: Although emails can still make an impact, hand written letters indicate a serious commitment to an issue. During the event everyone had the chance to write a letter to Senator Durbin and Senator Kirk, which were later hand delivered to their offices.

Phone calls: Calling a representative’s office is one of the quickest ways to take effective action. It was after hours, so one of our attendees called the office to leave a voicemail. All attendees also took home simple call scripts that could help them formulate their message when they get the chance to make a call during regular business hours.

Meeting with Representatives: Meeting at a senator’s office is extremely impactful. In fact, a few days after our Advocacy in Action event, we took a group to both Senator Kirk and Senator Durbin’s office.

It was a great privilege to be a part of the event. Several of the attendees had heard of ONE before and completed a few online petitions. However, this was their first exposure to the full scope of what ONE does and further, the first time they learned about all the types of actions they could take to make a difference. Not only did we all take meaningful actions during the event, but we helped empower ONE members to continue to advocate effectively for the issues about which they are passionate.

Consider hosting an Advocacy in Action event in your neighborhood – for details contact, field@one.org.