Introduction to Advocacy
Why Should I Get Involved in Grassroots Advocacy?
Grassroots Advocacy: Educating elected officials about necessary changes to public policy.
The day you or someone you love experiences a spinal cord injury, you become an advocate. There are many ways a person can advocate -- many fancy tools and tactics that are available -- but at its core, effective advocacy is about educating someone on a specific issue and moving them to action. It begins with one person, and is most effective when the messenger can communicate on a personal level. Most legislators are not experts on every issue. They need the information that you have in order to make informed policy decisions. With so many issues before them, it is YOUR responsibility to educate your elected officials about the costs associated with paralysis, the importance of continued funding for innovative research and the impact that lawmakers' decisions have on the quality of life of people living with SCI and paralysis. You don't need to be a scientist, economist, or paid professional lobbyist to be an effective advocate. In fact, the more personal the communication, the more effective it is.
Strong relationships translate into effective advocacy. And building relationships with elected officials, as with anyone, does not happen overnight. It takes time and effort over the long term, and it is built upon trust. It may seem obvious, but trust with a legislator and his/her staff is earned by being honest, responsive, respectful, clear in your requests, and persistent. Consistently sharing important information with your elected officials (not only when there is a critical policy debate) will result in your being viewed by your lawmaker as a credible source of information on spinal cord injury and paralysis. This becomes extremely valuable when we need to turn to our legislative leaders for support and assistance regarding a specific piece of legislation or policy.
Opportunities for Advocacy
Christopher Reeve said it best: "Nothing of any consequence happens unless people get behind an idea. It begins with an individual and they share the idea with more individuals...and eventually it becomes a movement." This toolkit provides some basic guidance on how to effectively use letter writing, phone calls, emails, faxes, face-to-face meetings and social media to develop strong relationships and influence your senators or representatives. However, being an advocate for spinal cord injury and paralysis includes more than just direct communication with elected officials. Public awareness can be raised while waiting in line at a grocery store, by sharing information with your child's teachers, by distributing educational material at community events, and by including information on your face book page or in your blogs or tweets. Advocacy takes many forms and often occurs outside of Washington, DC. Good advocates see opportunities and take advantage of them. If somebody seems interested, educate them!
Download the Reeve Foundation Advoacy Toolkit (PDF)
- Introduction to Advocacy
- Get Involved - Stay Informed!
- Advocacy Priorities
- Coalitions we belong to
Find out more about:
- NeuroRecovery Network (NRN)
- North American Clinical Trials Network (NACTN)
- Paralysis Resource Center
- Health Care Reform
Read about our advocates:
- Elle Rausin
- Taylor Price
- Kris Gulden
- Melissa Pitts
- Eva and Joseph Briseno