WHAT IS ADVOCACY
“Advocacy is defined as any action that speaks in favor of, recommends, argues for a cause, supports or defends, or pleads on behalf of others.”
In the most basic sense, advocacy is speaking up about something you believe in, in the hopes of improving a situation for yourself or others.
How to get Involved
When is the right time to get involved with Local, State and Federal issues that effect your community? The answer is now. There are many ways in which your voice can be heard. They say, “All politics are local.” Begin by researching who represents your area. Attend town hall meetings to find out what topics are being discussed. Register to vote. All these actions can become reactions and assist your cause. Below you will find information on how to get involved in your community to make a difference.
Register to Vote!
The importance of your vote and your voice is enormous. It is the one way that we can contribute to the change we want to see in the world. Past elections have shown us that the United States voter turnout is in fact low, compared to other countries. It may be hard for us to rearrange work and family schedules to accommodate standing in a long line to vote on that one important day. We may feel that it is not worth the time to do so. However, there are many ways that you can plan your voting strategy. Your vote is very important!
A few questions to ask yourself are…
- What do I need to do to register vote?
- Can I vote early by mail?
- Do I have to be registered with a political party to vote?
- Is identification required?
Preparation is key for you to have a successful vote. The Fair Elections Center offers an annually updated guide to each state’s voting laws. This is a great resource for you, your family and friends to stay informed on the voting rules in each state.
Research is important. It keeps us educated and informed. It may take time for you to do your research but is well worth the effort. There are several informative websites that can get you started on the right track. The websites below offer many insights on advocacy and issues that are currently taking the forefront in today’s policies.
Congress.gov is the official website for U.S. federal legislative information. The site provides access to accurate, timely, and complete legislative information for Members of Congress, legislative agencies, and the public. Please visit https://www.congress.gov/ for more information.
NCAI has a “Get Involved” section with a page on advocating for Indian Country. You can also become a member to get updates and stay informed. Please visit http://www.ncai.org/get-involved for more information.
Since 1970, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) has provided legal assistance to Indian tribes, organizations, and individuals nationwide. NARF has successfully asserted and defended the most important rights of Indians and tribes in hundreds of major cases and has achieved significant results in such critical areas as tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, natural resource protection, and Indian education. Please visit https://www.narf.org/about-us/ for more information.
Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. They conduct public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and other data-driven social science research. They do not take policy positions. Please visit https://www.pewresearch.org/ for more information.
Research your Local, State and Federal elected officials!
It is important to know where your Tribal, Federal, State and Local elected Officials stand on topics that you are passionate about. Issues and solutions can begin locally. Given the right attention and support, these issues can gain State and federal attention. Many issues right now deal within the following categories.
· Community Sovereignty
· Social Issues
· Domestic Policy Issues
· Economic Issues
|· Immigration Issues
· Electoral Issues
· Healthcare Issues
· Education Issues
· Environmental Issues
Click on the tabs below to find your Tribal, Federal, State and Local representatives
|The chief executive of a Tribe is generally called tribal chairperson, principal chief, governor, or president. A tribal council or legislature often perform the legislative function for a tribe. Additionally, a significant number of Tribes have created tribal court systems.
To find out who your Tribal elected official is, visit https://www.bia.gov/bia/ois/tribal-leaders-directory/ and use the search function to pull up the contact information.
At the federal or national level, you have three main legislators: two senators and one representative.
Every state has two senators, who represent all people of their state, regardless of geographic area.
Representatives serve based on geographic area, called their district. You have one representative at the national level.
To find out who your representative and senators are, visit https://live.cicerodata.com, and enter your address. Click on any senator or member of congress and pull up their contact information.
At the state level, you have one state senator and one state representative. Unlike national representatives, both state senators and state representatives served based on geographic area, or districts.
To find out who your state senators and state representative are, visit https://live.cicerodata.com, and enter your address. Click on the senator and representative to pull up their contact information.
At the local level, there are many different elected officials who may have influence over specific issues and policies. Depending on where you live and what you are interested in advocating about, some of the most relevant local elected officials may be the mayor, members of city council, members of the school board, or the district attorney.
The most important part of Advocacy is using your voice. There are many ways to do this that are equally effective. Organization is key in this process to obtain the full amount of attention your voice is projecting. Have a clear goal in mind and a plan of how to achieve it. Focus your message. Public messaging is crucial to political action. A clear, specific message usually works best. There are different ways to communicate with the people who will listen. Here are a few examples.
- Attend a Tribal Council meeting
- Attend a town hall meeting
- Make a phone call
- Write an email
- Form a focus group
Below you will find a guide on the 4 main categories to begin your advocacy efforts. They are Preparation, Communication, Documentation and Follow Up. Click each one to learn more.
Good preparation is important in effective advocacy. Below are some examples of preparation and how to get started.
- Information is power. The more you educate yourself on the topics and policies you want to speak on the better you can present your thoughts, ideas, concerns and questions to the appropriate person.
- Have specific goals in mind. Sometimes goals can be broadly stated but goals can also be much more specific. Try to be as specific as possible about what you want to achieve and, if possible, what specific actions you would like to see happen.
- Identify key issues. When you can clearly identify problems or barriers that exists, you can focus your advocacy on what needs to be addressed.
- Identify solutions. Solutions may not always be easily identified. Communication and conversation with others can lead to solutions that will help your advocacy efforts.
- Identify allies. There are power in numbers. Talk with your family, friends and neighbors. Identify those willing to attend meetings with you. Remember, being a good advocate does not mean that you must go at it alone.
- Identify individuals you need to contact. These are the individuals who have the authority and ability to make decisions based on feedback from the community. These individuals are your Tribal leadership, local representatives and state representatives. If there is a policy that is hanging in the balance at the Federal level, contact your legislators.
Effective advocacy requires good communication. Communication can take many forms including phone calls, face to face meetings, letters and emails.
- Be clear and concrete. Make sure that your message or request is stated clearly. It should also be brief and to the point. Often, we want to include everything that revolves around the issues. However, if we add too much information, we can become sidetracked on other issues that may not be as important as the topic at hand.
- Be assertive. When you communicate with others, they will need to understand that you have goals you wish to achieve. Talk firm but not harsh. Stand tall and use eye contact. Remember assertive communication is not aggressive communication.
- Listen to others. Listening is a simple way to respectfully communicate with others. It means that you are open to listening to their point of view. When others are speaking, do not interrupt the thought. Let them finish and you can then assertively state your thoughts on the matter.
- Ask Questions. If you hear something that is not clear to you, ask questions. Asking questions may be a good way to get valuable information that will ultimately assist your advocacy efforts. Asking questions may be a good segue into forming relationships with individuals who may be able to help you, those that are in the position to make decisions.
- Use visual communication. When speaking to someone about a cause that has directly impacted your life or the life of someone you know, put this into a story. Make it personal. This shows a different perspective that others may not have caught on to at first. You can then share your examples on how a situation can be improved.
Keeping notes of your progress can be very helpful in your advocacy efforts.
- Keep a notebook. Documenting your efforts is a good way to stay organized. You will want to write down dates, name and title, contact information and topic discussed and/or outcome for each person you meet with. You may need this for reference during follow up.
- Keep files. Keep a file of all correspondence that you may receive. Whether or not it is positive or negative in terms of your cause, keep all documentation readily available. You may need this in the future. Getting verbal acknowledgement is a good feeling. If you can obtain that information in writing, this is better.
Often, when you advocate for any policy or topic, it does not provide immediate results. The policies you want changed, may need some time and attention for months or even years. Some situations require persistence and effort to achieve success.
- Do not get frustrated. Continue to follow up until you feel that you have been heard.
- Connect with others. If you are going at this alone, involve others. Communication is a key factor and can create power in numbers.
- Compromise. Sometimes advocacy is about negotiation. What are the things that you are willing to compromise on or settle for if you cannot get what you want or need? The next best solution can be better than no solution at all.