The last few years have seen an increased emphasis on diversity in the advocacy industry. Events like #CouragetoRun and organizations like the Global Organization for Applied Political Leadership (G.O.A.L.) are helping bring recognition that diversity should be celebrated and promoted. Whether its advocacy professionals or the grassroots individuals that meet with their elected officials, diversity is necessary for running an effective outreach program.
Organizations like the NAACP, Voto Latino, and many others have established advocacy programs that work hard to promote awareness of diversity issues. Some organizations have established diversity task forces such as the American Diabetes Association or campaigns that advocate for policy considerations disproportionately affecting a particular group like the Screen at 23 campaign. These groups are charged with an express purpose, but the average association, corporations, or non-profit should also have a vested interested in diversifying their advocates to empower new groups of people to spread their message.
Members of Congress that hear from people across different socio-economic backgrounds, different ethnicities, religions, regions, and other distinguishable factors can have a great effect on showcasing the necessity to enact policy change. Presenting a diverse coalition of people can directly relate to whether or not a legislator supports or opposes a piece of legislation. The strength is in the quality of advocacy and conveying the widespread impact on society.
Advocacy professionals need to consider diversity from the perspective of interacting with elected officials. Outreach to diverse communities is an important initiative that organizations shouldn’t take only because of their social responsibility, but because it also makes a more compelling case to a lawmaker.
Now, outreach to diverse communities can take time and effort because of historical barriers such as discrimination, disenfranchisement, and political apathy caused by these factors. Diversity in advocacy will continue to be an important topic for many years to come as there are many unresolved issues. The advocacy community cannot afford to neglect the need to push for measures that promote inclusion not only within the industry but in the very programs that we operate or manage in our individual roles.
Technology and innovation, ethics and responsibility, along with diversity and inclusion should be top of mind for any advocacy professional when considering programming and outreach. Programs that take steps to promote these areas of interest will not only have a vested stake in the long-term vitality of the advocacy industry but will ultimately be more effective.
Joshua Habursky is assistant vice president of advocacy at the Independent Community Bankers of America, chairman of the Grassroots Professional Network, contributing editor to Campaigns & Elections and an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.