“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”-Margaret Mead
A global social change practitioner compelled to improve the health, safety and environment of individuals, communities and organisations through research, community engagement and social marketing for behaviour change.
My biggest motivators are people and the environment. When a person eats McDonald’s every day or when a neighbor runs the stop sign every morning, I want to know why and how to effect change in order to make their lives and others, more healthy and safe.
As a global citizen here are some of the skills I use to advocate:
I provide qualitative, participatory action and formative research to create evidence-based, effective interventions and build community capacity.
Applying behavioural science and the social marketing mix (the 4 Ps) to design programs, messaging, and brands, while identifying personas and target audiences, to create social marketing campaigns for behaviour change.
Creating authentic digital mediums to tell real, honest stories that create an emotional connection, which address universal social, environmental and public health needs.
Engaging communities and citizens to build relationships, offer an exchange of ideas and skills, improve effectiveness and sustainability of programming, and build community capacity.
If you would like to join me in some of my current advocacy efforts, please email me. Currently, I am working with Walk Bike Tampa on pedestrian and cycling safety in the City of Tampa www.walkbiketampa.org and the New Tampa Road Safety Group. I also am a Preconception Peer Educator and always looking to share with men and women how to take care of their physical and mental well-being now, in order to have a healthy baby in the future.
-April Ingram, MPH, CPH www.linkedin.com/in/aprilingramchase/
Let’s build something great together.
Top 5 ways to advocate at a community level.
Attend town hall meetings
This is how the New Tampa Road Safety Group got started. I attended a town hall meeting and spoke to my local representatives about the problem. Afterwards, I spoke with their aides and gave them my information so I could invite the rep to the area to see the problem. I also offered to be a resource for information and solutions. When I was leaving I had other neighbors and community members approach me to tell me about their experiences and concerns. I got their names and contact information and later contacted them to share their stories at a community meeting. When you stand up at the mic, introduce yourself and succinctly state your issue within 2 minutes. No one, and I mean no one, likes someone who rattles on for ages. Finally, if there is a local paper reporter at the meeting, be sure to give them your contact information so readers can know how to contact you if they want to get involved.
Look for like minded individuals or organizations to work with
One such organization in Tampa for me was Vision Zero. I attended public awareness events they hosted and in turn found individuals and groups to work with around pedestrian safety.
Turns out I wasn’t the only one concerned about cross walks near schools in New Tampa. Benito Middle School also had a horrible problem with drivers running red lights as students were crossing on Cross Creek Blvd. Notice I said, “had”. I can proudly say that Benito Middle School now has 2 crossing guards on Cross Creek Blvd. Not only did Hillsborough County Sheriff’s department reverse their decision to provide crossing guards for middle schools, Benito Middle is one of the first middle schools in the county to get crossing guards. This is from constant and vocal people like you!
Organize An Event With a Community Partner
Below is an event hosted by the New Tampa Road Safety group in partner with Vision Zero at Pride Elementary School. We contacted the Pride PTA to participate but unfortunately, we did not have much success garnering communication of the event thru the PTA. Attendance was poor, however, most likely due to inclement weather. Generally, PTA’s are great sources for collaboration if you advocating on a children’s issue. Just make sure you are in contact with school administration and you develop a good relationship with them.
Write a letter to the editor, an op-ed or an article on your subject matter
Funny story. I did this in my youth before I knew what advocacy was. In 7th grade I read an article in the newspaper referring to children growing up in the military as “military brats”. The term never settled well with me. So I wrote an impassioned letter to the editor. It got published. Needless to say my English teacher was proud.
Whenever there is an incident in your community which directly relates to your advocacy issue, take the opportunity to write a piece on the issue. You are more likely to get attention from the press and politicians when the issue is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Be the person with the ideas and knowledge to fix a problem, and/or give an impassioned plea. Here are to tips for writing an effective piece:
- Time your op-ed to a news event;
- Make it personal. Write in your own voice. (Unless you write like an academic than don’t). Let people know why the issue is relevant to you based on your experience. And how that experience could be there’s.
- Make it local. If you are writing about a sustainable urban garden in NYC from the suburbs of NC, it isn’t relate-able or relevant to the readers.
- For a bigger audience, consider writing a piece with a well known name. A relevant co-writer, such a local politician, or a local star athlete can bring some clout and credibility to your readers.
- Know your target audience. Are you writing the piece for people who already feel or act like you do? If so, what’s the point? Think about who you want to reach with your piece and how best to reach them.
- Make your point, one point. Don’t try to tackle more than one issue at a time. For instance, don’t write a piece about homelessness and food shortages in the same article. And drive home your point with 3-4 strong supportive facts. This is not a debate. Don’t list the counter arguments.
- As a public health practitioner we learn a lot about health literacy. Your piece is no good if no one can understand it. Use everyday language. And language is more impactful when it tells a story. If your story isn’t common, help readers understand it by using metaphors and analogies.
- Attention span. People have less and less of it. Don’t make it long. Look to see what the average op-ed piece is in your news paper and if they have limit. Usually around 500-900 words.
- Like your English teacher told you, start with a clear and strong first first sentence. Let you reader know where you going with your first sentence and draw them in to read more. Finish with a deal closer paragraph.
- Just as you would with social media, name people and organizations. Isn’t is frustrating when you read something and you want to do something about it but don’t know what? Give people next steps. If its an organization that can help or a politician who hasn’t acted, be sure to name them. It doesn’t have to be negative. It can be a thankful post as well. If you aren’t writing with a goal in mind and a desire to get people to act, you shouldn’t be writing it.
Use social media
If you aren’t already using social media to your advantage, then get started. Most decision makers are on Twitter. Social media is a great way to engage with people around the world, share information, highlight what you are doing and draw attention to events and issues. When posting an image or video relevant to your issue, tag the decision maker to draw their attention to the issue. Warning: don’t over do it. This should be used carefully and selectively. Also, do not use harassing or ugly language and images. You will get blocked and flagged. If you want to make your issue a # (hashtag), you can create one on your own or you can search trending hashtags based on your topic. Just a side note, #’s don’t work on Facebook. In the world wide web, using a hashtag on Facebook actually negates one created. Not good if you are trying to increase exposure. Your social media posts should be “framed” around a predetermined strategic message or media goal/campaign. Here is an example,
Use images in your post as much as possible. Personally, I love humor and funny memes and gifs. Last but not least, do not post pictures of minors without the explicit written permission of a parent or legal guardian. It is also common courtesy to ask permission of anyone before you take and use a photo with them in it. Unfortunately, this isn’t always understood.
Get to know your legislators, senators and council members
Look up who your local representatives are, what committees they are in, how they voted and their background and interests. They may be your next champion. They also may be in stark contrast to your views. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t contact them. Its even more reason for you to contact them. They represent your interests. And they can’t represent your interests if you aren’t telling them what they are. Write them a letter, send them an email, and/or contact their aide and ask for a meeting. This also leads me back to #1. They will every so often hold town hall meetings. This is the perfect time to introduce yourself and pitch your issue. If you decide to have a meeting (and when you get one), do your research, be prepared and be polite. Come with a one-page informational sheet to hand them. Remember, your rep is not an expert on every topic and they rely on their constituents to tell them what is going on. And don’t forget to give them your contact information so they can follow up with you! Finally, as a southerner, I always send a thank you note 🙂