Advocacy is an activity by an individual or a group that aims to influence decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions. It means engaging with those institutions to ensure that they uphold our faith’s values: respect for the dignity of every person, justice for those who are marginalized and/or living in poverty, and care for the natural world.
In other words, advocacy is putting our faith into action!
There’s also another important reason why each of us should get involved in the political process: there is a huge gap between what is happening in our local communities and what is happening in the halls of Congress.
The Congressional Management Foundation conducted a survey which found that 94% of congressional staffers said “in-person visits from constituents would have some or a lot of influence on an undecided lawmaker.”
Why? Because you have stories, data, and experiences about issues that they might not have.
In the same survey, 91% of congressional staffers said it would be helpful to have “information about the impact a bill/issue would have on the district or state.” However, only 9% report that they receive that information from their constituents frequently!
What’s more, 79% of staffers said a personal story from a constituent related to the bill or issue would be helpful, but only 18% report that they receive that frequently!
As people of faith and as people who live in this country, we have a duty to help close this gap. That’s why we created “The Advocate’s Toolbox,” which will help you influence policy, get your message into the media, and build a relationship with your Members of Congress.
You can use this resource during any time of year on any issue, but an especially great time to put this resource into practice is during the “August recess.”
Every August, Members of Congress go back to their districts and states for a full month in order to touch base with their constituents and learn what they care about. As a result, in August there are many opportunities for you to meet with your representatives in-person, interact with them on social media, and invite them to community forums.
Tip: you DO NOT need to be an “expert” in the issue(s) you care about in order to have an impact. Your story – your personal experience with the issue and your community’s experience with the issue – is what’s most important.
Be sure to involve your family, friends, and colleagues in your advocacy too!
If there is a local group that cares about an issue that you care about, join them and ask about implementing this toolbox together. (Maybe you’re already part of such a group.) You could also see if your family, friends, or faith community would do the same. Advocating as part of group a will double your influence.
If you have any questions about this toolbox, or how to put the tools into action, please feel free to contact the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach at firstname.lastname@example.org.