Embracing change, for-good: Government engagement in the post-pandemic recovery period
22 April 2021 at 7:00 am
Jo Scard, CEO + Founder of Fifty Acres, shares some insights into how social change organisations and NFPs can effectively engage policymakers and stakeholders.
Just shy of five months into 2021, despite a few cluster scares, restrictions are easing and Australia is slowly bouncing back from the uncertainties served by 2020.
The past few weeks has seen cities beam with life again, dance floors are back in and face-masks are (largely) out, and a guaranteed seat on public transport is a distant memory. In an unlikely turn of events, ‘normal’ is trendy…and once the weather has been covered off, conversations with friends circle back to an analysis of just how ‘normal’ things are feeling…
Of course, some things will never go back to the way they were pre-pandemic. Many lessons from 2020 will have a lasting effect for years to come. The way we work, spend our time and respond to the world will never be the same. The past year has seen a huge amount of social change seen in the form of protests, public speeches, social posts and media coverage.
Movements including Black Lives Matter, School Strike 4 Climate and Women’s March 4 Justice have created such groundswells that decision makers can no longer turn a blind eye. However, news in recent days about the continuation of alleged police brutality against black Americans, as well as the lastest reporting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders lives lost in police custody here in Australia, acts as a stark reminder of just how far we have to go. We must keep hustling, advocating, educating and striving for fundamental human rights and social justice.
Now is the time to ensure that your organisation’s voice is part of the conversation. But now with MPs with more on their plate than ever before, how do you ensure your not-for-profit organisation’s message is being heard?
Stay one step ahead
There will be a federal election at some stage in the next twelve months, more likely than not in early 2022 as the vaccine roll-out falters. There will be multiple opportunities to advance ideas and funding requests between now and the next election – not just the 2021/22 budget in May but also out of budget requests, MYEFO (Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook) later this year and expected pre-election spending announcements.
It’s really important to have a number of ideas to put forward and make sure that the relevant federal ministers, key backbenchers, marginal seat MPs and key opposition and crossbench representatives are across them.
Communicate across multiple platforms
This digital era means that it’s almost impossible for the government to ignore issues that have been tirelessly advocated for throughout history. Nowadays, just one voice can amplify to represent a million in a matter of minutes if it’s picked up on the right platform.
This is adding to the growing pressure faced by the government, who have been forced to respond to the sea of social injustices witnessed in recent months thanks to media taking advocacy mainstream.
In this post-pandemic period, MPs will be inundated with emails and requests. Make yourself known. Sending one email and hoping for a response isn’t enough anymore.
Show that you are serious about the issue. Call up the MPs office and build a meaningful relationship with the adviser or diary secretary, they are the person responsible for making sure your message is passed on.
Develop an ‘e-kit’, a digital sample pack of images, positive messages and content that the MP can post on your behalf. Do this regularly, even monthly if you have new content you can speak to.
Be prepared to speak up, and to listen
In this unique, pivotal moment in time, ask yourself how your organisation relates to the current narrative. Be agile in your approach and don’t be afraid to show your support for the big issues faced by the government at that time.
If the news cycle turns to something your organisation can authentically align with, use this opportunity to provide your perspective in your advocacy and add something valuable to the conversation. Approach journalists who are writing on the issue and add in your view.
Have a spokesperson
We know that with many social justice issues, having a public spokesperson can be hard to navigate, as topics can often be triggering or traumatic to speak about and relive.
If you do have someone that’s ready and comfortable to speak to the cause publicly, it can really help to highlight the human-side and relatability to your cause—this person can help bring your values and mission to life, and having a familiar face who heads your campaign can help grow connection between your organisation and your target audiences – whether that’s government, the public, or both.
Fifty Acres presents free fortnightly webinars for not for profits. To register visit fiftyacres.com.au/academy/
If you need help with government engagement, assistance with a strategic communications strategy or PR outreach, get in touch with Jo Scard at Fifty Acres on 02 6281 7350 or visit fiftyacres.com.au/