Policy research and education is one advocacy strategy that is available to organizations and groups that want to protect the interests of children and to promote the well-being of children, youth and their families. Data driven advocacy is an important means to inform issues and shape policy debate.
Having data and analysis of the data can help level the playing field when you find yourself opposed by more politically powerful and well-financed interests. It can help you demonstrate the need for action or provide support for your position on needed change.
The internet has put a wealth of information at our fingertips You can find data about the status and needs of children and families in the St. Louis metropolitan area on the Kids’ Data section of this website. You can access state KIDSCount data by county from the Missouri Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis. The Missouri Departments of Social Services, Health & Senior Services, and Elementary & Secondary Education contain a wealth of data. Nationally you can compare Missouri data on children and their families to other states’ data at the Annie E. Casey KidsCount Data Center.
Beyond simply collecting data, it is necessary to understand what the data mean. While it is nice to be armed with statistics, it is better to have taken time to examine and parse the data. If you cannot do this yourself, there are trusted sources that can help you! The Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Kaiser Family Foundation, First Focus, and the National Center on Children in Poverty are examples of places that have information about various aspects of child well-being.
To maximize the impact of data and to use it to effectively advocate for policy change, here are some key questions to consider.
If you take the time to answer these, you are well on your way to being positioned to advocate effectively.
- What is the problem?
- Who is affected by the problem? How many children or families are affected?
- What is the specific aspect of the problem that needs to be addressed?
- Who is the decision maker(s) that can solve the problem?
- Who are the key stakeholders involved in the issue? Who care about it, and why?
- How can the problem be solved? Does it take legislative change? Administrative change? Budgetary change?
- What strategies are available to solve the problem?
- What resources- policies, program and funding – are currently in place to address the problem?
- What has been tried here or elsewhere?
- What evidence exists of a promising approach to solve the problem?
- What resources are needed to implement the desired strategy(ies) to solve the problem?
- What outcome indicators will measure the effectiveness of the strategies being sought?
Once the data is collected and policy analysis is complete, you will need to find effective ways to disseminate the information. Depending on the nature of the problem and its solution, you may want to educate the general public or specific constituencies, as well as policy decision makers. Information and outreach can take a variety of forms. Written reports or policy briefs can be printed or web-based to make information immediately available and accessible over time. Traditional media outreach can include news releases, letters to the editor, commentaries or news conferences. Briefings or webinars offer a more interactive format. And social media such as Facebook and Twitter are valuable vehicles for frequent and rapid dissemination of information.