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How to Leverage the Entire Policy Ecosystem

Sometimes getting from Point A to Point B takes a number of indirect paths that are critical to the success of any advocacy effort. Too many people come to DC hoping to pass a bill, for example, and their entire effort is going door to door asking for support for the bill. While this certainly will not hurt any effort, there are more direct, impactful, and unique ways of elevating an issue to help build broad support within Congress. Here are three ways to leverage the broader policy ecosystem to create momentum around an issue:

Committee Hearings: Committees are a great venue to quickly elevate a policy issue. Working with a member of the committee to ask questions or make a statement during a relevant hearing (with witnesses) can have real impact. If you are focused on an issue at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, for example, a member voicing support for the issue when the Secretary is testifying in the committee is useful (as is getting the Secretary on-record about the issue). Many committee members are skilled at getting commitments and action on issues from key witnesses, and it is a useful tool.

Report Language: Working with policymakers to include language in the committee report that accompanies legislation is not only a good way to help influence the Administration on a particular issue, but also to help keep the issue relevant and supported in Congress. Too many people wrongly undervalue report language because it is not binding by law, but it is noticed (and usually acted upon) by agencies and also provides official committee support (in writing) for an issue. This can take some time and there is usually a process for requests (especially around appropriations and large authorization bills), but it is a valuable way to elevate an issue.

Third Party Validation: Sometimes an organization is not the most credible voice on an issue they care about. Finding that credible voice helps validate an issue and can broaden the audience quickly. For example, the Chamber of Commerce talking about your issue is very impactful with many policymakers.

Every advocacy effort can benefit from leveraging a variety of messaging platforms that have a unique purpose or audience. Spending too much time just waiting for a bill to become law or recycling the same tactics over and over again may not get your issue across the finish line. Looking across the policy ecosystem will open a number of new opportunities for advocacy that can be very useful.


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