It can be daunting to find your first steps to changing local policy. While many specifics will depend on your targeted policy and goals, this roadmap can shed some light on your path.
Step 1. Research.
Take some time to research how the issue plays out in your local community. How is the current policy working? Who set the policy and who has a say in changing it? Who is it benefiting, and who is it hurting? How does your community compare to others? Who are the stakeholders? Identify the policy that will have the most impact on your community and begin building a campaign that targets the appropriate branch of local government.
Step 2. Gather allies.
It is important to build a coalition of allies who can meet regularly to plan your policy/advocacy campaign. Identify organizations currently working on similar issues in your community. Reach out to those and to other sympathetic organizations that could become active if they are not already. Be sure to include faith leaders, business leaders, affected individuals, and other “movers and shakers” in your working group.
Step 3. Prioritize and plan.
Within your working group, agree on a goal, strategy, and roles. Identify people in your group or known by your group who have established relationships with key policymakers and stakeholders.
Step 4. Develop your message.
It is important to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Develop a set of talking points to clearly convey your message to leaders, community members, and media. The ACLU and other partner organizations may be recruited to help. Distribute the talking points among working group members and let them guide your policy conversations.
Step 5. Connect with stakeholders and policymakers.
Be sure to meet with appropriate officials to assess their position on the policy and to enlist their support. Be collaborative, but firm. Come with solutions but be open to their experience.
If a local ordinance or resolution is needed, work with allies in the City Council or Commission to find a sponsor and determine the proper timing to bring the proposed ordinance forward for a vote.
Step 6. Get your message out.
Letters to the Editor, Editorials, news interviews and public forums are all great ways to engage and inform the public to grow support for your campaign.
Step 7. Mobilize the public.
Try to get a great turnout to any public meetings: showing broad community support is effective. Encourage people to show solidarity by wearing like-colors or campaign buttons, including the City Council or Commission members who are supporting the ordinance. If you have a good crowd, make sure that one of your speakers asks those in the audience to stand up to show broad support from the community. For those who cannot attend the public hearings, invite them to write, email, or call the elected officials indicating their support of the ordinance and encouraging the officials’ vote for passage.