Advocacy 101 Super Charged

While scanning the American Library Association’s Annual Conference program descriptions, I came across a session entitled “Turning the Page 2.0.” I quickly skimmed the description and decided this was the workshop that would give me advice on how to advertise my skills and ability. When I arrived and the facilitator started speaking, I quickly realized the workshop was not what I assumed and that I should have thoroughly read the program summary.

I ended up staying because I was one of maybe two (2) guys in a room full of women, thirty (30) women to be exact—joking. I “really” decided to stick through the workshop because I realized it would equip me with the tools necessary to be able to effectively articulate and gain support for providing digital literacy training to incarcerated people housed in US correctional facilities. I was also relieved to hear that this was the second (2nd) iteration of a program that 1,700 libraries have already participated in. Hopefully this means most of the kinks have been worked out.

The workshop, an introduction to a six (6) week program was facilitated by Dr. Steve Yacovelli and Judith A. Drescher. They provided attendees with a rough outline of how the program would help us learn how to gain advocate’s for a library related initiatives. This post will be used to highlight the things that stood out for me during this two and a half (2 & 1/2) hour program. Let’s get started.

Advocacy, what is it? A quick search online led to the following definitions:

Understanding exactly how advocacy is being defined in a particular context is extremely important. In context of the six (6) week program advocacy is understood as,

“the process of “ACTING on behalf” of the people to “increase public funds” and ensure that the library has the “resources needed” to be up-to-date.

Set S.M.A.R.T Advocacy Goals

Establishing an advocacy goal is the next most important task. The goal should be S.M.A.R.T:

  • Specific: Set specific goals, provide explicit details. (e.g. “We are going to raise $XX,XXX by May XX, XXXX” and NOT “We’re going to raise a few million”)
  • Measurable: Must be measurable. Being able to measure will allow you to do several things including track progress, participation rates and other trends
  • Attainable: Set a goal that you have the capacity to achieve (look at what has been done to know what is possible, so you don’t work on a goal that’s NOT possible)
  • Relevant: Who cares? Why should they care? The specific thing you are trying to gain support for must be important to people (Buzzwords: Children & learning; Older people and life long learning). Relevance can get lost in jargon and inappropriate language. As such make sure you describe the goal in a way where the stakeholders you are reaching out to can connect with (e.g. “we do educational programming for children birth through 14” NOT “We do story hour”)
  • Timely: Timing is everything. If seven other agencies in your community raised a million dollars, it is not your turn. So plan ahead

After going through S.M.A.R.T., we were instructed to develop our own advocacy goal. The exercise has a bit challenging. I believe this was partly because of the group I was addressing in my goal. The goal I ended up with at the end of the prescribed time period was:

My Advocacy goal is the convince people of the importance of providing digital literacy training to prison inmates pre-release.

Soon after writing my goal, I realized that it wasn’t completely S.M.A.R.T. Although it is kind of specific, relevant, and timely, it does not explicitly mention anything that can be measured. Without some sort of measurement, it is nearly impossible to confidently conclude that I have achieved my goal.

After attendee’s shared their advocacy goals, we moved on to discuss what would be covered in the weeks to follow. Each week focuses on different facet of advocacy effort. They are as follows:

  • Week 2: Telling Your Story – What is the story you want to share at about your library (e.g. Why should offenders receive digital literacy education)
  • Week 3: You as a Leader – You are the library’s representative. How can you leverage that in your advocacy efforts
  • Week 4: Building Relationships – Interactions with direct and indirect stakeholders can lead to mutually beneficial relationships. How do you cultivate such situations?
  • Week 5: The Big Ask – Figuring out how you go out and ask for public funding is an important task. Though it is unique for each environment, there are general guidelines to follow
  • Week 6: Now what? This will be used to help program participants plan for the weeks following the last session

Want to increase the chances of carrying out an advocacy work plan?

  • Find at least one other person to do it with you. Having at least one person working with you increases the chances you’ll successfully complete the program as well as the likelihood that you’ll carry out a plan from start to finish
  • Do the homework every week. It’ll work better in the end. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” The same is true here. Students who do it in the prescribed increments and will be better off
  • Put your all into it. What you put in to it is EXACTLY what you’ll get! Enough said

Some Fun

After providing a glimpse at the six (6) week program, the facilitator’s divided attendees into groups and went through an exercise. Sentence starters were provided and each group member had to complete the sentence. The starters provided were:

  1. The best job I ever had was …
  2. The riskiest thing I ever did …
  3. My most proud moment is …
  4. One thing I would change about my library is …
  5. The most challenging thing I’ve done recently was …

Time to Advocate

Hopefully this commentary was enough to whet your appetite for library-related advocacy. If that is the case and you are Interested in participating in “Turning the Page 2.0”, click here and let them know Lassana Magassa sent you. If you are interested but not ready to sign up, that’s fine too. I will be using my blog to reflect on each week of the course. Just subscribe and you’ll be kept up to date on my progress.

2 comments to Advocacy 101 Super Charged

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>