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Embracing Change Videos

Community Advocacy: An Essential Component of Community Action

In this session, two veteran public policy advocates will discuss specific examples of advocacy strategies and tactics that have been successful and reflect on strategies that were less effective. Marc Stier and Jeff Garis will share “war stories” and lessons learned as they pursued their work in community-based advocacy. The session will attempt to address the following questions:

  • How does an organization begin grassroots advocacy?
  • Why is advocacy important given the time required in light of other organizational commitments?
  • How do you effectively communicate your agency’s stance on a particular issue to policy decision-makers, the media, and the public? How do you engage the press?
  • What are some of the basics for delivering a compelling message? What are tactics you should NEVER use?
  • What’s the role of social media in an advocacy campaign? What are the strengths and downsides of social media?
  • How do you mobilize community members and/or volunteers? How can you get the most out of these people while minimizing the potential for counter-productive activity?
  • What are the keys to organizing a successful meeting with a legislator?
  • What are the strengths and challenges of participating in a coalition? What are the differences between a formal coalition and a short-term campaign?
  • What does success look like? How do you demonstrate success to your board and your organization’s supporters?
  • How does grassroots advocacy differ from professional lobbying? What advantages does grassroots advocacy have over professional lobbying or paid media campaigns?

Marc Stier became the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) in 2015, building on an illustrious career as an activist, professor, and writer. Prior to joining PBPC, Dr. Stier served as the Executive Director of Penn ACTION, where he worked to protect funding for education and women’s health care and expand Social Security; the Pennsylvania Director of Health Care for American Now, which led the grassroots effort in support of what became the Affordable Care Act in the state; and the Health Care Campaign Manager for SEIU Pennsylvania State Council. Dr. Stier was an academic for 25 years and taught at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks; City College of New York; the University of North Carolina, Charlotte; and Temple University. He has a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University and a doctorate from Harvard University, both in political science. Dr. Stier is the author of numerous papers on political philosophy, the history of political thought, and American politics. He is the author of the book “Grassroots Advocacy and Health Care Reform”, published in 2013. He recently finished two new books, “Liberalism and Communitarianism Revisited” and “Civilization and Its Contents: Reflections on Sex and the Culture Wars”. He also is co-editor of “Ambiguity in the Western Tradition”.

Jeff Garis is the Outreach and Engagement Director for the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC). Jeff has nearly two decades of experience working with advocacy organizations in Pennsylvania. Before joining PBPC in 2013, he worked with diverse coalitions for several years as the Field Director for Pennsylvania Voice and the state Political Director for America Votes. Jeff spent four years as the Executive Director of Penn Action after directing a statewide death penalty reform organization for seven years. He began his professional career as a teacher in a Mennonite middle school and is a licensed minister in the Brethren in Christ Church. Jeff lives in the Germantown section of Philadelphia and has a bachelor’s degree in English from Messiah College. He has authored no books and greatly enjoys watching Three Stooges films.