Everyday Advocacy: A Snapshot

(The third in a four-part stream on arts advocacy resources)

A SNAPSHOT OF SUCCESSFUL ADVOCACY
In 2009 a small group of community/arts education advocates, led by a local arts consultant named Victoria Saunders, in San Diego successfully appealed to their school board to save their visual and performing arts department from elimination in a round of aggressive cost cutting. It’s a great case-study in organization, mobilization and civic agency—meaning our capacity to act cooperatively and collectively on common problems across our differences of view.

For the whole story, read Saunder’s How I led a Small Group of Citizens to a 4-1 School Board Victory.”

Their victory was successful because they were able to:

NAVIGATE BUREAUCRACY, STRATEGIZE & DISTILL THE FACTS
They went to the school board website,  found out about upcoming meetings, studied the budget.

SYNTHESIZING FACTS AND GAUGE POTENTIAL IMPACT OF CUTS
Asking the right questions: what does this mean? How many teachers are we talking about? How many programs? What is the  ultimate impact of that cut?  Asking the right questions of administration helped them understand the proposed cuts and the potential impact.

GET THEIR MESSAGE RIGHT – FRAMING THE ISSUE
When you started talking to your Community, it’s key that you frame the issue in a way that delivers the message (and call to action) clearly. In San Diego they framed the issue in terms of keeping the arts department—not a wholesale elimination of the arts in the schools.  They were careful  to speak the language of the school board; to do their homework on the issue.  They distilled the message down to talking points they could share with advocates and give them the tools so they could deliver the message that was simple and actionable—presented in a reasonable, measured way.

LEVERAGE TOOLS FOR GRASS ROOTS ORGANIZATION/MOBILIZATION
Coalition leaders quickly implemented a website; created a Facebook fan page to help build community support and share information.

IDENTIFY ALLIES
In combing through their Facebook “fans” they discovered that one of their supporters was the brother of one of the school board members. That helped them understand who they might  leverage to help plead our cause. Another was  a former head of the local taxpayer’s association and an independent political consultant.

MAKING IT EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS
Central to the campaign was that Saunders and others weren’t motivated by a risk to their own livelihood –they were largely volunteering their time, not  part of the school district  nor were they parents connected to the district—they simply saw arts education advocacy as a community responsibility.

Tim DuRoche is Director of Programs at the World Affairs Council of Oregon, member of The Right Brain Initiative’s Governing Committee, and Chair of Right Brain’s Advocacy Committee.

Don’t miss Part I and Part II of this series.

3 Responses

  1. […] miss Part I, Part II, and Part III of this […]

  2. I am impressed by your steadfast research and resolve that led to the ability to make a difference.
    For that, I thank you.
    And I don’t live anywhere near San Diego. I am in Savannah, GA…albeit my daughter just informed me she could be moving there in the near future!
    She is very artsy and I have every reason to believe
    her future children will be too!

    Sincerely,
    Mary Harris

    • Hi Mary, Thank you for reading and for your comment. I just want to be really clear that The Right Brain Initiative had no hand in this excellent work in San Diego. Our program is focused exclusively on the Portland, Oregon area, but we believe firmly that we and other arts education advocacy groups can learn a lot from this example.

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