Developing an Advocacy Training Program

The American Library Association asks:

Can Advocacy Associates develop and implement a long-term advocacy training program?  We need our members to be inspired, empowered, and enthusiastic about advocacy.

Background

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world.  Since its founding in 1876, it has served as the venue for the community’s ongoing efforts to ensure access to information for all.  In 2001, ALA leaders turned to Advocacy Associates to increase the involvement of organization’s 25,000+ members in effective advocacy.

Advocacy Associates Strategy

The Advocacy Associates team created a long-term advocacy training and materials development program.  Elements included the following:

  • In-person trainings:  Stephanie Vance has trained thousands of library advocates in over 25 states, as well as at the national level.  These sessions have taken place both at annual conferences as well as state-level lobby days.
  • Webinars:  Over the course of the collaboration, Advocacy Associates has provided more than 30 webinars on topics such as “Quick and Easy Ways to Connect with Legislators,”  “Social Media and Advocacy,” “Building Long-Term Relationships through Site Visits” and “Why the Budget Process Matters (and How to Make a Difference).”
  • National Library Legislative Day:  The Advocacy Associates team has been involved with ALA’s library legislative day since 2001, specifically in terms of giving the 800+ participants the strategies necessary to conduct effective meetings.  In 2010, our staff helped coordinate a rally on Capitol Hill that generated meetings with over 350 Congressional offices.
  • Survey of Advocates:  Working with the ALA Washington Office staff, the Advocacy Associates team developed and distributed a survey regarding the membership’s views on advocacy and specifically the resources that would encourage their active involvement.  Over 1,000 ALA members responded.  These responses are being used to create specific and actionable materials designed around advocate needs.
  • Online and Offline Materials:  From short “how-to” videos to webinar recordings to online toolkits, Advocacy Associates has provided practical tips and techniques for every critical advocacy activity.  These include: a district-visit toolkit; a “how-to” package for attending town halls; “train-the-trainer” materials; over 35 videos on topics such as using the ALA action center, making phone calls and engaging in text-based outreach; slideshare presentations on advocacy techniques; and sample letters, visit agendas, handouts and advocacy planning worksheets.  We’ve also provided a comprehensive advocacy planning workbook and an online advocacy classroom.

Results

Over the course of 12 years, thousands of ALA Advocates have received the message that local advocates can influence what happens in Washington, DC. This understanding has generated a significant increase in advocacy engagement at all levels – from action alert responses to site visits to in-person meetings in DC and the district.  Most important, this activity has resulted in significant victories on Capitol Hill such as preserving funding for technology services in libraries (the “e-rate”), preventing enactment of harmful legislation related to consumer products, changes to privacy statutes, and updates to copyright regulations.