Research the Issue
Getting your start as a citizen lobbyist can be intimidating, despite the fact that in a representative government, our elected officials are working for you. There are many written and unwritten rules to be aware of, offices and staff to navigate, and complex policy issues to understand. It is no wonder that these barriers keep people from regularly engaging with public officials on decisions that affect their lives.
Empowering ourselves to make an impact on an issue can be one of the first, and largest, barriers. It's important that as citizen lobbyists, we redefine what it means to be an "expert" -- learning the status of the issues we care about and drawing on our own stories and experiences.
Yes, we need to know about the issue we are lobbying on. But we don't need to draw a paycheck working on the issue, or have a PhD, to have something worthwhile to say.
When starting the process of citizen lobbying on an issue, your group or organization should think about the following:
1. What is the status of your issue at the legislature? Is this a "good" year?
How many elected officials have indicated support for your issue? Is
there public support behind it, with good media attention? Who are your
opponents, and how much power do they have? Has a policy been written to
address your issue, or do you need to work with an elected official to
2. Who is essential to the outcome?
Who are the stakeholders in this issue? Who are the allies you need to have on board because they increase the power you have to move the issue? Which decision-makers do you need to move (committee chairs, legislation sponsors, etc)?
3. Who else is working on this? Can you coordinate?
4. Who can you influence?
5. What is the time frame?
6. When are key dates - meetings, committee hearings, deadlines, etc.