Advocating for a cause may follow one or a combination of several different courses including individual lobbying, mass media exposure (interviews or public service announcements), public rallies, direct mail campaigns, rallies and forums, third party endorsements, or community coalitions. The Children’s Rights Council utilizes some of these methods and rejects others.
Let us begin with an awareness of techniques CRC does NOT use – lobbying and direct mass mail. Because CRC receives public funding (Federal, state and counties), it is generally restricted from using a lobbyist – especially with public monies. A lobbyist is a person or group paid to influence, or attempt to influence, an officer or employee of a government agency, a member, officer or employee of Congress, a state legislature, county board or other governing body.
2. Mass Mail Campaigns
The Children’s Rights Council does not engage in direct mass mail campaigns either. Although not legally restricted from this activity, it is an especially expensive method to communicate awareness with questionable effectiveness. You no doubt often receive such mailings at your home from many worthwhile organizations, yet wonder how expensive and wasteful it must be to send you something that immediately finds its way to the trash. Keeping a close watch on our fiduciary responsibilities to our membership, the Board of Trustees ensures CRC invests its resources in far more responsive and substantial efforts.
3. Public Service Announcements
While CRC considers Public Service Announcements (PSAs) an important factor in promoting community awareness, they are not especially successful in advocating change at the community or personal level, and fail to address the greater social or legal environment that ultimately determines those factors that put children at risk. Furthermore, while mass media (television, radio etc.) may donate free airtime as a condition of their operating license, it does so in a manner that generally will not compromise its own agenda or support of a competing interest. Nonetheless, it is a media which the public is most familiar in the attempt to draw attention for more information.
Making information available through interviews and public debates is an effective form of advocacy. As Paulo Freire contends, “information is power”. While most parents are or feel in a less powerful position than authoritative persons in the judicial or political system, information is a great equalizer to gain power. The Children’s Rights Council has been featured on more than 200 television and radio broadcasts, and richly quoted in a diverse print media of newspapers and journals across the country. Such interviews by media organizations help to address external factors in more concrete terms, level access and structures to a larger population, and publicly challenge the legal and political environments ultimately responsible for unfair practices and related social problems. In this manner, CRC incorporates a broader view that conceives actions in terms that stimulate debate and promote responsible portrayals and coverage of issues; and ultimately inspire community mobilization to transform public opinion and reform conflicting social policies.
5. Public Rallies & Forums
Unlike mass media, educational and entertainment advocacy methods are mostly concerned with directly influencing smaller audiences. While the message may reach fewer people, it is by the process of community organization that best helps to identify common problems or goals, mobilize resources, and develop and implement strategies for reaching objectives. Public rallies and seminars may also take the form of “townhall” meetings or online forums. The Children’s Rights Council both sponsors and participates in these venues to exchange information and facilitate questions about social justice issues between government officials, or elected representatives and their constituencies. Of course, an excellent time to influence government officials is during a political campaign, when candidates are vying for support. Public rallies, debates and seminars foster better understanding of social issues and their importance, as well as help constituents base their votes upon better information of who will best represent such social interests.
6. Third Party Endorsements
In concert with its other methods of advocacy, CRC equally seeks to augment social justice and civic advocacy initiatives through third party endorsements and leadership. Whether in the political, academic, entertainment or human services sector of society; the Children’s Rights Council has secured a broad public recognition and appreciation in a breadth of business and entertainment personalities serving as national advisors and spokespersons. Through the honored respect and significant accomplishments of high profile third party endorsements, parents everywhere have benefited from those individuals and groups who have dedicated their efforts and lent their name to CRC in the best interests of children.
7. Community Coalitions & Membership
Each of us holds a unique and important perspective. And though the voice of every single person is important to any cause, it is the collective voice of many that helps ensure a particular viewpoint is dynamically heard. By encouraging people with like interests to come together, community coalitions and membership work to create strength in numbers. Without a collective power base to amass and substantiate common interests, parents will remain disenfranchised in legal, social and political systems with little opportunity to exert control or influence changes in presumptions and systems.
To build a powerful coalition for parents, CRC relies heavily on an outreach strategy and grassroots actions. Through membership in community coalitions like CRCkids, the Children’s Rights Council is better able to unite various concerns dedicated to the advancement and attainment of political and social acceptance that “level the playing field” in certain issues of divorce, custody and access. In concert with the many forms of media advocacy, community coalitions are better able to focus specific issues into broad-based campaigns that ultimately put pressure on decision-makers. In this way, parents once underrepresented are given an opportunity to gain control and influence changes in presumptions and systems.