The world is changing. Technology has democratized power and influence shifting much of it from political leaders and the media to ordinary citizens armed with nothing more than a cell phone. It has forever changed the way people interact with one another.
The way we as an organization communicate and advocate must change too if we are to be effective at changing the business practices, laws, systems, and attitudes that keep people trapped in a cycle of poverty.
In the past our Voice of the Poor committee focused our efforts on seeking legislative changes. Federal and state laws were targeted through legislative monitoring, letter and email campaigns, and personal appeals to legislators. This kind of legislative advocacy is important, but we’ve learned it’s not enough. We’ve also learned that:
- As an organization, we don’t all speak with one political voice.
- Few members of St. Vincent de Paul, are comfortable speaking with legislators, joining coalitions, etc.
- Targeting proposed legislation is often too late in the process to have real input or influence.
- We are not deeply connected with other charitable organizations across the region.
- When a committee is responsible for advocacy, the rest of the organization disengages.
Today, mobile digital media is quickly becoming the way that people connect, access services, and seek social change. As a Society, we need to use this fact to augment our legislative advocacy strategy with a community advocacy strategy to change the attitudes and ideas of people in our community about issues impacting the poor. The objectives of this new Voice for the Poor initiative are to:
- Increase public awareness of SVdP and the work we do with people in need.
- Engage with legislators before legislation is proposed to explain what we do, how we help their constituents, and what issues are negatively impacting the people we serve.
- Become a poverty thought leader by being a trusted source of data, information, and our powerful client stories.
- Educate our supporters so they can speak with confidence about issues affecting the poor.
- Use the collective power of our 5,000 volunteer voices to amplify our message both online and offline to compel people to action.
- Increase our collaboration with other organizations doing similar work for greater impact.
- Commit to continuously examining our own internal policies and procedures throughout the organization to be sure that we are doing the very best job possible for the people we serve.
If we are to really change the systems and structures that keep people locked in poverty we need advocacy to become a core part of being a Vincentian. Being an effective advocate means we are committed to:
- Learn: Visit the website weekly to learn about the issues impacting our clients and read their Stories of Hope.
- Share: Share your stories and what you have learned with others in your online and offline communities.
- Act: Push your conference to do more to raise awareness of SVdP in your parish and local community. Volunteer to become your conference’s Voice for the Poor Coordinator. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up!
You are a Voice for the Poor-let them hear you!