By Zoë Brooks-Jeffiers
The 2022 Legislative Session is quickly approaching and it is important to remember how much your voice matters.
If you missed the three sessions of our Policy and Advocacy Training Series, check out some of the most important takeaways about how you can be the best advocate for change during the 2022 Legislative Session!
Stay informed when giving testimony!
By signing up for an account on the Legislature’s website, you can receive hearing notices by email. Signing up allows you to stay on top of hearings for specific bills or committees. Testimony is due 24 hours in advance, and you will usually be notified around 48 hours in advance. Because of this quick turnaround time, these notifications can be extremely beneficial.
Also, remember the Sunshine Law! It is your right to know what will happen during hearings for state and county boards. You can request a board packet which includes all materials that are being reviewed.
According to this law, notice of a meeting agenda must be:
- Filed 6 calendar days prior to meeting
- If a state board or commission, posted to the state calendar
- If a county board or commission, posted to the county calendar
- Should also be included in the board or commission’s website
Do your research.
When you’re advocating for an issue, consider whether it’s a federal, state, or county issue. If you aren’t sure, reach out to a local advocacy organization and they can help! Which legislator should you talk to? Check who represents your district here. Knowing where you should be and who you should talk to will make things much easier.
COVID-19 has changed some things.
At the Legislature, you can now testify remotely as well as watch live streams. To remotely testify at hearings, you must first create an account through the capitol website. Once you sign up to testify, you will be given a Zoom link. Join the Zoom 30 minutes early, be prepared, and keep your chat open as legislators will communicate with you there. Keep in mind, all of your testimony is public record, so don’t say anything you don’t want the world to have access to.
Your moʻolelo matters.
Your testimony is important and your story can be powerful. Biologically, storytelling releases oxytocin and dopamine. Sociologically, storytelling helps us define our own narrative and transmits value. Make your story a narrative and connect it with the issue at hand. Have your hero, setting, challenge, choice, and outcome ready to go within your narrative.
Don’t be intimidated.
Although legislators may seem intimidating, they are just everyday people that were selected to represent you and the community. It is your legislators’ job to listen to you and your stories, so start a conversation! Take a breath. You’ve got this!
Keep the conversation going.
Legislators, generally, like to talk to people that live in their districts and are their potential voters (aka constituents). The more a legislator hears about an issue from people in their community, the more likely they are to care about that issue.
Know the resources available to you.
Communications and messaging matter!
As you’re working on communications, here are four things to keep in mind to help increase your success:
- What is your goal?
- Reflect on your past years and think about your timeline, budget, and resources. Make sure you are using the SMART(IE) goals model
- What’s the big picture?
- Know your audience. What is your mission, vision, branding? Is your messaging consistent with those aspects of your organization?
- What messages will you send?
- Remember that emotional response is first. Think over your verbiage, metaphors, etc.
- How can you content be most effective? What is your audience’s preferred news source? What social media platform is best? Don’t assume your audience knows anything. Put them first and use the inverted pyramid model. Use personal stories and never stop experimenting!
Listen to your legislators' advice!
Your legislators want to work with you, speak with you, and improve our community. Here is their advice for new advocates:
The annual Policy and Advocacy Training Series is organized by Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network, Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute, Blue Zones Project Hawaiʻi, Hawaiʻi Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, Common Cause Hawaiʻi, Hawaiʻi Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations, and PHOCUSED.