Wait, Put Down that Phone: On Advocacy Strategy
The Oklahoma Legislative Session will begin soon, the first Tuesday in February. The news and activity level is ramping up. Whether based on informed reports or rumor, we will begin receiving warnings about potential legislation and budget choices impacting arts and culture.
How do we deal with warnings about dangers to arts funding or arts education?
We research the information. We explore partnerships and connections already in place. We solidify our advocacy base. Then, as needed, we make contact with appropriate elected officials.
When approaching public policy and funding, there are many forces at play simultaneously.
Busily establishing their agendas, elected officials are negotiating with colleagues, listening to constituents and a wide-variety of special interests and responding to the current economic and policy landscape.
At the same time, many diverse parties are promoting their causes and gathering information. Media try to make sense of and examine each step. Lobbyists camp out near the elected officials’ offices to stay informed and vie for influence. Grassroots advocates write, call and visit elected officials in all different sizes groups and with varied agendas and levels of urgency.
Meanwhile, government employees work to serve the stakeholders within their appropriate scope. Each public entity was created in a specific authorizing environment, meaning the agency has a specific type of services and service area based on shared understanding of the public need. That scope is outlined by elected officials or their administrators. Civil servants are not advocates, but are asked to represent and justify their work to elected officials. And, of course, they continue to provide their services or programs as authorized amidst whatever political season.
So, on action. When we hear there is a bill that directly threatens positive arts policy or funding, we must take action.
That doesn’t mean immediately calling our elected officials (although we might presently). First,
We research the information.
If an undesirable bill, we read the bill with care. If appropriate, Oklahomans for the Arts lobbyist asks the author about the intent of the bill to learn any context or reasons for the bill. We find out the possible impacts of the bill on Oklahomans and the arts sector. We also consider the potential drawbacks of lobbying related to the bill—Is the author an important ally on other issues? Will our lobbying negatively impact other important interest groups?
If an informed report, but not yet published publicly, we follow similar steps with more confidentiality.
If a rumor, we proceed with caution. In a pressure cooker environment like the legislative session, tons of information flies around during the legislative session.
If you hear something you think we may need to know, please tell us. You may be hearing different reports in your various groups than we are; the more eyes we have on any issue, the better.
We explore partnerships and connections already in place.
Oklahomans for the Arts has a 25-member Board of Directors. We ask them for help, contacts and information. Our Executive Committee also approves any public Action Alerts we issue.
Likewise, we reach out to our primary partners for information, contacts and help, like the Oklahoma Museums Association who serve hundreds of museums across the state and work closely with the tourism industry or Allied Arts who galvanize an incredible network of business and arts leaders in central Oklahoma. They can inform our position and response immensely.
We solidify our advocacy base.
We reach out to you, stakeholders who have expressed interest in arts advocacy.
We ask you for help, with contacts, information or direct action.
Ideally Oklahomans for the Arts and advocates have a unified position statement on the issue already. Ideally our advocacy network already has relationships with or friends with connections to all elected officials. Ideally we have time to follow these preliminary steps with care.
But, frequently we have to take action before we feel fully prepared.
As advocates, you may not be part of all of these steps and may only be asked to take action when we reach a crisis point. There are many steps that go into providing you with strategic and accurate information and asking for your action, but will give you all the timely information we can!
Please know your help, information and work are always valuable. Even at times when we are not asking for specific unified help, you can always:
- Build a stronger relationship with your elected officials. Look them up here. Communicate with them regularly. Keep them informed about arts and culture success in the community. Let them know your concerns.
- Improve our already strong case for support of arts and culture by gathering stories and data about the positive impact of arts in your community.
- Help strengthen our advocacy network by joining Oklahomans for the Arts.
- Add advocates to our email list. The more people who are interested and willing to take action, the stronger our collective action! Add a few people today by sending them this link.
Please keep updated on our Action Alert email list and share information with your friends and networks.
Thanks for your interest and for improving our state with arts and culture.