Your Policy Tools & Maps

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Different problems require different solutions. Whether nonprofits are advancing their missions through advocacy by playing offense to achieve something or – as is more often required – playing defense to stop harmful policy threats, nonprofits can use lots of different approaches. Think of these different approaches as separate tools in your advocacy toolbox to help you craft better public policy.

The tool box analogy helps illustrate several points:

  • Just as a carpenter’s tools come in lots of shapes – hammers, measuring tapes, pliers, and screwdrivers – to meet the needs of particular job, advocacy tools come in lots of shapes that can be used in different situations.
  • Just as a beginning carpenter doesn’t have to own every tool imaginable to begin work, the same is true with advocacy tools.  (As Arthur Ashe once advised: “Start where you are; use what you have; do what you can.”)
  • Just as a carpenter gets better with experience, the same is true with nonprofit advocacy – with experience you will get better with each tool you use.
  • Just as a carpenter doesn’t keep the tools neatly arranged inside the toolbox while a project is underway, the same is true with advocacy tools:  several might be used simultaneously to meet the dynamic needs and opportunities of public policy making.

Another useful analogy in the public policy arena is a map.  Just as there usually are multiple different pathways to travel from your house to your office or grocery store, there usually are multiple pathways to arrive at a policy solution. The key to successful arrival at that better policy destination is to know the alternative routes in case one is blocked.

Now let’s go explore the different advocacy tools and maps that your nonprofit can use to better advance its mission.

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