Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Everyone is an advocate

MCCOY recently surveyed its constituents to find out what they think are the most pressing issues around youth and positive youth development and where MCCOY has the best opportunities to make a difference. One of the strongest messages we received from this survey is the need for MCCOY to take a more active role in advocacy.

"Advocacy" has a certain mystique among many nonprofits and many people are not clear on what exactly it entails. Some may equate advocacy with high-paid lobbyists wining and dining legislators on Capitol Hill. Others have a sense that the IRS forbids nonprofits from engaging in any advocacy under penalty of losing their charitable status (this is a misconception that nonetheless carries a lot of weight in the nonprofit sector). Some of us understand the potential impact of grassroots advocacy but aren't sure how to do it or think it's better left to "experts." But the truth is that as long as we focus on the issues without trying to get a specific piece of legislation passed or candidate elected (or rejected), there is no limit of the amount of advocacy each of us can do. The voices of the people who directly serve youth -- and of the youth themselves -- are the most powerful and effective advocacy tools that we can ever find.

We all agree that youth and the agencies that serve them need someone to advocate on their behalf, and MCCOY is certainly well suited for this role, especially after we recently brought on board a talented staff member (Mindi Goodpaster) to ramp up our advocacy efforts. However, one of our key objectives is to work with local youth-serving agencies and others who are passionate about positive youth development to empower them to advocate for youth themselves (this also dovetails with one of our ten strategies for the Early Intervention and Prevention Initiative). We will be developing our action plan and reaching out to our allies as we ramp up our advocacy work in the weeks to come, so stay tuned and find out how to get involved!

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