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The Advocacy Sessions
On the frontlines of fertility policy.
by Barbara Collura, May 4, 2009
What is an advocate? And what does it take to be an advocate in the infertility community?
We often hear about the efforts of “just one person” and how he or she made a difference. We often hear a call-to-action to volunteer, stand up for what we believe in, and make change happen. But let’s face it, we don’t all have it in us to be “the one.” Some of us would rather not rock the boat. I do believe, however, that many of us want to experience the benefits that change provides.
The Ingredients for Advocacy
Grassroots advocacy efforts are really the same from one cause to another. The ingredients required are: an organizing body that can coordinate and communicate; a specific issue or message; passionate people; and a call to action — in other words, what to do with those passionate people and that issue or message. Add some creativity, perhaps a lucky break with the media, and you’ve got the makings for a successful grassroots advocacy effort.
All Politics is Local
As the saying goes, “All politics is local,” meaning if you want to be an advocate, start in your own backyard. Find out who your elected officials are and make it your business to get to know them, including the name of the staff person who handles health-related issues. These individuals are not only your gateway to change, but they can turn out to be incredible allies as they help you navigate the legislative process. (If you do not know who your elected officials are, a simple Internet search can help you find them.)
Determine what your issue is — what change you want to see occur. You don’t have to have bound volumes of research and statistics; you just need to be able to articulate what the problem is and how it is affecting you. For example, you want to have a baby, but your insurance company will not pay for medical treatment related to your infertility diagnosis. Or, you desire to be an adoptive parent, but the costs are prohibitively high. Now all you need to do is speak from the heart.
Present your problem to your elected officials in your own voice, acknowledging your hurts, desires and wants. Treat your elected officials as a new relationship. Keep in touch with them, let them know your struggles, and keep them updated on your family building journey. Your goal is to build your relationship so that when and if legislation is introduced that either helps you or hurts you and your cause, you can immediately connect with them (and/or their staff person) and let them know your opinion on the pending legislation.
I recently read a survey of staff members in the U.S. Congress and one of the questions asked how many constituents they need to hear from on a particular issue before they do something about that issue. I thought it would be a few hundred — 100 at the very least. The answer was seven! Yes that’s right, seven constituents. It only takes seven people to talk about an issue for that Senator or Congressperson to research it, perhaps introduce legislation, or otherwise take notice.
The Organizing Body
Let’s revisit the key ingredients for a successful grassroots advocacy effort. We now have the issue or message, the passionate people, and the call to action. What’s needed is an organizing body to communicate and coordinate. In the infertility community, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association plays that role. Every successful advocacy effort that has taken place concerning infertility could not have happened without amazing advocates, and an organization to coordinates communication strategy, provide research, garner support from other facets of the infertility community, and coordinate the call to action.
You are not Alone
Being an advocate is fairly straightforward, does not require any special skill, and information and resources already exist to help you. You are not alone, and your voice can and should be heard. Make it your business to be an advocate for the infertility community this year!
Barbara Collura is Executive Director of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. For more information about RESOLVE and its advocacy efforts, visit www.resolve.org. If you are interested in being an advocate for infertility issues, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.