If you’re interested in advocacy, it’s probably because there is an issue you’re passionate about, and you want to make a positive change in your community. As part of your advocacy effort, you may have a compelling personal story to share about how a policy affects you and others in your same boat. Telling that story is one of the most persuasive ways to change the views of your legislators and motivate others to join your cause. A compelling personal story can be the foundation upon which your advocacy efforts are built.
Stories play an important role in advocacy efforts. However, a story by itself can be relegated to one individual’s experience, allowing larger systemic issues to be ignored. For example, a story of a young woman overcoming poverty can be interpreted as, “she pulled herself up by her bootstraps” and that others in poverty should have the initiative to do the same. This illustration shows how a story can be used to shift blame towards individuals rather than focusing on the systems and structures in place that helped and hindered the successful example.
Relevant data, when used with stories, can keep the focus on systemic issues. Data helps show that an issue extends beyond an individual and should be addressed at a population-wide level. Data can illustrate and strengthen the true need for your advocacy campaign, reducing uncertainty and substantiating your case.
KIDS COUNT is the premier source for data on child well-being in the nation and in our state. We collect data on demographics, economic well-being, educational attainment, health, and family and community outcomes.
If you are working on an advocacy effort that helps kids and need to back it up with data, go to http://datacenter.kidscount.org/ and click on Oklahoma. Please call or email me if I can help you find indicators to support your cause. We are here to be a resource for child advocates across the state.
Don’t hesitate to reach out and good luck on your own advocacy adventures!
Lani Habrock is the director of KIDS COUNT at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. As a former contender for the State House of Representatives she believes legislative advocacy is an important work we must all take responsibility for in order to create positive change for all children in our state on a population-wide level.