Advocating for Change
Any successful advocacy effort includes many tasks that an audiologist, SLP, group of audiologists and/or SLPs, or state association must accomplish before getting started:
- Conduct an analysis of the potential for change.
- Determine support and opposition among stakeholders and decision makers.
- Determine the decision-making cycle.
- Form a group and assign roles.
- Make connections-gain support from likely and unlikely sources.
- Develop an action plan.
- Create a proposal and leave-behind fact and information sheets.
It is important for members to be able to gauge the potential for a successful outcome. Some of the key factors to consider include:
- Assessing past efforts for change
- Has the state or the local district agreed to changes that support professional staff in the past?
- Have teachers' unions successfully advocated for change with the state legislature or at the local level?
- Has the state association lobbied for a positive change in the state legislature?
- Determining the political climate in the state
- Has the district or state administration supported innovative education efforts in the past?
- Will the state/district support a trial effort?
- Identification and position on the issue of key stakeholders and decision makers
- It is important to determine who the key decision makers are and to marshal support from other stakeholders-teachers, consumers, other service providers, administration, key legislative staff, and legislators in committees of jurisdiction.
- Development of an active network of member support
- Are other audiologists or SLPs in the district/state united in support of the effort?
- Can the group coalesce around the issue of workload and are the members of the group willing to seek support of other stakeholders?
- Are they willing to contact or meet with decision makers (i.e., special education directors, superintendents, state department of education officials, legislative staff and legislators)?
- When are decisions made?
- What is the process for requesting change? How does the request need to be made?
- If it is a legislative process, how is a bill developed, how are sponsors obtained, and when and how will the bill be introduced?
Once the audiologist, SLP or state associations have determined there is potential for change, it is important for the state leaders and local audiologists and SLPs to meet and decide how they want adopt a specific policy. Once a likeminded group or association committee has been formed, the group should identify individual members to assume roles and accept responsibility for helping to accomplish the goal.
These roles and responsibilities include the following.
Group Leader—keeps the group members informed and serves as the spokesperson; helps identify supportive stakeholders and decision makers and those who will oppose the group's effort.
Member Advocacy Coordinator—develops and maintains a list of members willing to contact administrators, legislators , legislative staff, or other decision makers in a timely manner.
Consumer Coordinator—Identifies and maintains a list of consumers willing to share personal stories and assist with the group's effort.
Lobbyist/Legislative Liaison—assists with legislative or regulatory effort to get workload bill enacted and to keep members informed of the bill's progress and the need to testify or follow up with legislators.
- Can the group attract consumers/parents willing to provide support/testimony as needed?
- Are there other individuals or groups that might support the group's efforts?
- For example, teachers' unions are powerful organizations at the state and local district level. Can they be convinced to support a workload model?
- Are there other groups, such as school boards or parent-teacher organizations that could assist?
- Has the audiologist, SLP, or group obtained support from the state association?
A key component to achieving success is to develop an action plan. Factors to be considered in any plan include:
- Gathering of data on the effect of instituting the policy
- How will students and families be better served?
- How will audiologists or SLPs provide more quality services?
- What successes have been achieved in other states and districts?
- Identification of the key decision makers and supporters
- Development of talking points for group members, parents, and other consumers
- Identification of a communication network and timeline for communicating with decision makers
- Group members' responsible for the identified tasks and actions
Last, but equally important, is to develop a proposal/presentation outlining the request—including facts and data, consumer/student and audiologist and SLP benefits of the adoption of the model, and cost benefit/analysis.
Additional fact sheets should be developed to give to legislators, staff, and other decision makers. The group leader needs to work within the timeframe to deliver the proposal on behalf of the group and provide additional testimonials and contact information for the decision-making body.