Minneapolis Advocacy Session Hits the Mark
By Jonathan Pearson on Sunday, July 8th, 2012
Among the number of activities and options available to attendees of National Peace Corps Association’s (NPCA’s) first Annual Gathering in Minneapolis, was a well attended and well received advocacy workshop.
Nearly 60 people representing different parts of the country stopped by the Saturday morning workshop, facilitated by RPCV Ken Patterson (Niger 87-90, Niger APCD 92-95), the Global Grassroots Manager of RESULTS, a global grassroots organization which works to create the political will to end hunger and the worst aspects of poverty, while working to empower individuals to have breakthroughs in exercising their personal and political power.
A power-point presentation that provided an overview on the basics and importance of citizen-based advocacy was followed by something the Peace Corps community is quite familiar with – a feedback and comment session, small group discussion, and of course, ideas captured on flip-chart paper!
Ken shared some inspiring stories of his work with RESULTS advocates: from coordinating “bird-dogging” sessions at a congressional town hall meeting to make the case for international assistance programs, to an hour-long face-to-face conversation with a Senator following his trip to Africa, part of the evolution which has led the Senator to become a strong advocate for global efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.
When asked by Ken to share their thoughts on advocacy “Challenges and Opportunities” – especially in an election year – attendees offered a number of ideas, including:
- Lawmakers are as educated and articulate on key global issues, or they are as uninformed as we allow them to be. We have an important role as members of the Peace Corps community in educating lawmakers.
- Returned Peace Corps Volunteers are impacting the world, and we need to share that story. We need to re-engage other RPCVs who aren’t currently engaged.
- In making our case as a voice for those we worked with overseas, it is important to reach out to others who don’t necessarily agree with you. Seek out the “persuadable middle” who may be open to your point of view.
- Follow the news and stay focused with the news cycle. This will allow you to be strategic in your outreach and your effectiveness as an advocates.
In order to share some of the key concepts of the workshop with those unable to attend, participants broke up into several groups and were asked to draft a letter to other members of the Peace Corps community, outlining some of the key “takeaways from the 90-minute session.
Here is what one of the groups had to say:
Dear fellow RPCV,
This is an important year and you can make a difference; advocacy for political change works when done effectively. The voices of many people can defeat big money and your voice is a uniquely strong one.
We urge you to join the advocacy voices raised in the Peace Corps community through the efforts of the National Peace Corps Association.
We offer a few suggestions:
- Elected officials are first and foremost people. Advocacy rests in relationships. Remember this in every step you take.
- Personalize the messages, letters and your contact with your legislator.
- When communicating your issue, keep the message simple, accurate and meaningful. Many tools and specific suggestions are available to you through NPCA.
- Three helpful things to remember when trying to deliver a message to a legislator are preparation, patience and persistence.
In closing we remind you of the famous Margaret Mead quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Writing you from Peace Corps Connect: Minnesota 2012 as a small group of fellow Returned Peace Corps Volunteers promoting advocacy for Peace Corps issues:
Tom Appel, Rhoda Brooks, Ron Cox, Lisa Falk-Thompson, Darrell Johnson, Dave Magnani, James Mohan, Deborah Most, Patrick O’Leary, Pat Wand
Follow this link to review Ken’s powerpoint presentation (please credit RESULTS if using this presentation…thanks!)