I have a dream... and an action plan

Oct 23, 2017

A couple of years ago I was in a workshop where the group leader pointed out that in 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. stood in front of 250,000+ people at the Lincoln Memorial he did not say, “I have an action plan”. He did not say, “I have measurable objectives.” He did say, “I have a dream. “

Dreams are powerful. They provide inspiration and direction. I dream of a world where every child, everywhere will grow up to be a thriving adult. I dream of a world where violence is the exception and not the norm. I dream of a world in which people have the means to control the decisions that impact their lives. But, Don and Phil Everly were wrong when they sang, “All I have to do is dream.”

We do need action plans. We do need measurable objectives. We need to build “systems of advocacy” if we are going to hold the systems that impact our lives accountable.

Community Catalyst (www.communitycatalyst.org) is a national consumer health organization that works to build the capacity of advocacy organizations in more than 40 states. They have identified, through their research, the key elements of that system. There are six capacities “…each representing a different and complementary collection of related skills, abilities and resources.” (Community Catalyst 2006). The capacities are:

  • Policy analysis and advocacy: the ability to compile, analyze, and synthesize policy and develop policy options and conduct legislative and administrative advocacy.
  • Broad-based coalitions and strategic alliances: the ability to bring together large numbers of different organizations and stakeholders in coordinated campaigns
  • Grassroots organizing and mobilizing: the ability to engage people at the local level and to put a human face on the need for better health care access
  • Communication: the ability to communicate persuasively and use the media and other communication strategies to build public and political support and counter opposition arguments
  • Strategic campaign development: the ability to plan and coordinate advocacy campaigns, including anticipating opportunities and threats and synchronizing advocacy tactics to evolving political dynamics.
  • Fund-raising: the ability to generate resources from diverse sources to build organizational, maintain core functions, and implement campaigns.”

This is not always how we have approached our children’s health policy work in central Iowa. But, it can be. Through the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation HealthConnect Fellowship we are going to build a system of advocacy in central Iowa. It is one of our dreams.

You need to build a system to challenge a system.

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