As part of the Civics Renewal Network’s Civics Advocacy Resources, we provide a how-to toolkit from the Constitutional Rights Foundation, a CRN partner, for those interested in becoming an advocate for civics education in their schools and communities. The toolkit offers templates for creating a petition; writing a letter to the editor; use of social media; hosting a panel discussion; and much more. The two other parts of the resources are studies and research-based articles here as well as op-eds, editorials and blog posts here.
We will continue to update these resources regularly. Contact the network at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, comments or suggestions.
Constitutional Rights Foundation: Civic Action Project (CAP) Toolkit
Highlights from a step-by-step guide through the civic action process have been excerpted here. Click on the link for more information.
Think about individuals and groups who might support your efforts to influence policy. In other words, build your own constituency.
For your project, there are many things you might want people to do. How can you persuade people to do them?
A petition is a formal document that people sign to show that they want a person or organization to do or change something. Think of it as a letter with a thousand signatures. It’s also easier to get people to sign a petition than to write a letter themselves. Officials know this—that’s why they pay more attention to a letter-writing campaign.
Most people in power keep close track of letters and emails written by the public. It’s one of the ways they gauge public opinion. Although a U.S. senator, a CEO, or the head of a nonprofit may not personally read your letter, they have assistants who read letters and tally opinions. Your letter or email will be read, and it might be answered.
Sometimes when you are working to overcome obstacles, conflict may arise. However, such conflict is natural and can be resolved.
A hundred years ago, the “media” meant the print media—newspapers and magazines. Then along came the broadcast media—radio and television. With the rise of the Internet, traditional media such as newspapers, magazines, radio, and television are now online and have become more and more interactive. New media have also emerged on the Internet. Among them are blogs, micro-blogs (e.g., Twitter), podcasts, Internet forums, email, video-sharing sites (e.g., YouTube), and social-networking sites (e.g., Facebook).
A news release or press release is a story, written by you, that you would like to see in the news. Consider local weeklies, newspapers, television, and radio. You can usually email the news release as an attachment, though some news sources may prefer regular mail or fax.
If you feel strongly about an issue and you want to bring awareness to it then “letters to the editor” can be an effective way to spread the word. Almost every daily newspaper publishes “letters to the editor,” and many people read them. With a single letter or email you can draw widespread attention to your concerns and perhaps get more support.
Connecting with the Community
Your project might require you to speak in public. If you’re prepared and you believe in the importance of what you have to say, then you’ll do well.
Make an appointment.You cannot expect to see a politician without an appointment.Even with an appointment, the politician may have to leave early to vote. You will probably end up meeting with an assistant (“staffer”) instead, but do not take that personally. Actually, staffers often have “the ear” of the politician on issues they’re convinced are important.
Lobbying is a way to persuade government leaders to create legislation, oppose laws, or conduct an activity that helps a specific cause. Know your subject.Politicians hear opinions from all sides on an issue. If you’re not well-versed on your subject then you won’t get far.