TAP: Get heard by politicians and corporations!
Great lunch talk by Tomi Van de Brooke, Chief of Staff for a Contra Costa County supervisor and long-time political consultant, followed by Kurt Sunderbruch a program manager with HP.
Most of the kids attending had a TAP issue that they wanted to get some change to happen for. Some wanted the 3 extra credit points at the end of the quarter…
Tomi started with “To change the way government, a business, or society functions you must ‘take action’.” (The following is a synthesis of what Tomi and Kurt shared in a step by step format easier for kids to follow.)
1. Get your facts straight: Get really clear on exactly what the issue is, what you want to change and how this will benefit the people you are writing to. Kurt later talked about the 3 Cs: Clear, Concise and Compelling.
2. Figure out exactly who to write to – who has the power to make the changes you want? A company web site will tell you who the CEO is, and what the mission of the company is.If you’re working with a non-profit, they may have advice for who and how to write to decision-makers on their website.
You can find your local, state and national politicians from this site, plus their voting records and where they stand on issues: http://www.votesmart.org/index.htm
3. Make your letter or e mail compelling by saying how what you want is similar to what the politician or the company’s interests are ex. This will save you money, impress your customers, be popular amongst your voters etc.
Hand-written (legible) and personal letters typed and signed get more notice than ‘form’ letters or e mails.
Say if you know the person, or are a constituent up front.
Enclose any news stories from local papers for a local politician. Send a copy of your letter to the local paper too.
4. Be concise – you are writing to people who are very busy. No more than one page. Only one issue per letter. State the issue and action you want them to take in the first paragraph. Be respectful. Be accurate. Say exactly what you want them to do. Thank them for what they’ve done. More tips at Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest.
5. Volume of E-mail and letters – both are collected and counted by issue and position, then given in folders to the legislator or CEO. If lots of voters or customers want this change, you’ll have more influence.
You could get people to sign a petition, to write their own letters, or form and leading a group with shared interest will get attention to your cause.
6. You could try meeting in person – If you want to meet in person, call ahead and persuade their admin assistant that you (and your group) need 10-15 minutes of the politician’s time and ask them to put you on the calendar.
Tomi finished with a quote from Helen Keller: “The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heros, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker.”
And Margret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Thank you Tomi and Kurt for taking time out of your busy days to help us take effective action. Sue