The importance of everyone having a role in engaging with government
1 February 2021 at 5:31 pm
Neil Pharaoh explains why it makes sense for everyone in your team to do a couple of small things around government engagement, and shares some tips on how to bring them along on the journey.
I was in Brisbane last week to do a workshop with a client of mine. They are a really great organisation operating in the health area and we spent the best part of a day together talking about (my favourite topic) government engagement. We covered the strategic, tactical, messaging and frame, but the part of the workshop which got the most involvement from the very diverse team was, after explaining why government engagement was important, asking them what they could each do in their jobs to help.
I reflect upon this as the ideas that came out were excellent, from small ideas like including government engagement updates on board agendas and management meetings, to having posters which show who their local MP’s are, and ensuring as members travel around the state that they provide updates, insights and information to the various electorate officers along the way.
In a resource constrained social purpose and not-for-profit sector, having everyone in your team do a couple of small things around government engagement makes sense. So how do you facilitate this discussion and what are the steps involved?
From my experience, there are four key things you need to remember to get everyone involved in your government engagement journey:
- Spend some time, host a workshop, and make sure everybody understands what government engagement means to you, and why it is important.
- Allow your team to ask questions, and come up with their own ideas to complement organisations efforts.
- Make sure the session occurs more than once, and there are opportunities to refine, learn more and develop as team members grow.
- Get your messages, asks and key points documented.
Let’s step these through in a bit more detail.
Firstly, make sure you spend some time with your team talking about government engagement – whether it be part of a team offsite day, or a specific session, explaining the role, and importance of government is the first step in bringing your team on a journey.
Most not-for-profit organisations are government funded, but to what percentage and how dependent on this funding you are is often not known by all of your team. Take the time to discuss what you hope to achieve, for your clients, the community and society, explain where the income comes from and the terms of any agreements. Share ambitions, and ask for team member ambitions about what they hope to achieve and get from government – taking this time is in my experience invaluable, and when well facilitated will lead to substantial benefits not just for government engagement, but for the whole organisation understanding of business needs, drivers and purpose.
Allow questions to be asked and encourage people to come up with their own engagement ideas. As much as we like to pretend we know everything which happens in our organisation, the detail of jobs, how they are performed and what happens day to day is often missing. Allowing team members to come up with their own suggestions to support a government engagement program is key – many of the ideas which crop up when I have been involved in these workshops are world class engagement ideas, coming from the perspective of people who live and breathe their work. Better still, things are more likely to be implemented if the teams involved in the idea are asked to help execute it.
Reflect, refine and remind – we are all busy, but making sure you have update sessions for government engagement every quarter or annually ensures that the team recognises and is reminded of the importance you place on working with government. Perhaps mention how discussions are going around funding agreements or contracts, or perhaps a policy or advocacy, regulatory or legislative campaign. If your team hears the journey you are on, that it is everybody’s role, and they get a regular reminder, you will genuinely be amazed at the impact on the organisation and its purpose.
The final point is more the responsibility of the leadership team, but it is critical to ensure you have done the work around what your key messages are, what you need and want from government. Having different horizons (short, medium and long) and different cost/investment points are key – if a matrix or chart helps then use that to illustrate where you want to go with your government engagement journey.
The best part about it? Having done hundreds of sessions with staff, across almost every sector and organisation, it’s clear that almost all the team members involved are actually excited, passionate and keen to get involved after a well-run session.
About the author: Neil Pharaoh has spent most of his voluntary and professional life in and around social purpose organisations, government, public policy and advocacy. Neil has been behind many leading social policy and advocacy campaigns on gender rights, equality, medical research and education, and ran for Parliament in Victoria in 2014 and 2018. He regularly runs workshops and advocacy sessions and advises leading social purpose organisations on their government engagement strategy and systems. @neilpharaoh on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Happenings on the hill is a fortnightly column focusing on all things politics, policy, campaigns and advocacy. Stay tuned for updates around political trends and elections, lobbying and advocacy news, and hints, tips and ideas on government engagement that are specifically written for the social purpose/for purpose sector.
If you have any ideas, suggestions, tips or questions, please feel free to email Neil Pharaoh at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to him via social media at LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @neilpharaoh.