Social Lobbying? Sounds Familiar

The always wonderful Maddie Grant directed my attention to a recent blog post by TechCrunch’s Semil Shah entitled The Dawn of Social Lobbying. The basic point of the piece is that big-moneyed lobbying where “suits” (his word, not mine) are paid hefty sums to peddle influence is being upstaged by an emerging phenomena known as social lobbying.  Social lobbying utilizes networks to move or defeat legislation.  I would argue that social lobbying has always existed.  It’s called grassroots lobbying.

Grassroots lobbying involves networks of individuals with a shared interest who outreach to their legislators in support of or to defeat a particular measure.  No association lobbyist in good conscience can claim that any legislative success was based solely on their work.  I can go to the Hill and talk about the technical aspects of the bill (i.e. how much the bill will cost the government, how many people would be affected, who supports it…).  However, my grassroots lobbyists give the issue a voice and a face.

I’m currently working with one of my committees on grassroots visits to discuss the Minority Fellowship Program (MFP).  MFP is the only federal program that provides grants to support the training of ethnic minority mental health professionals.  I’m neither a psychologist nor MFP Fellow.  When I go on my lobbying visits, I talk about how cuts to the program would decrease the number of minority psychologists in the field.  When my committee members go on their visits, they talk about how the fellowship allowed them to provide services to underserved communities where English is the second language or conduct research on minorities and HIV/AIDS.

While grassroots advocacy has been around for a while, I do agree that the use of social media in this area is fairly new and sorely needed. According the Congressional Management Foundation, Hill offices are being overrun by constituent mail including email grassroots alerts.  As a result, Members of Congress and their staff are increasing turning to Facebook and Twitter to gauge interest in legislative issues.  The recent debate over SOPA and PIPA serves as a great example of using social media at the grassroots level.  It should provide lessons for association lobbyists trying to break through the glut of messages going to the Hill.

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When it comes to DELP, don’t just take my word for it

I often talk about my DELP experience from the perspective of an alumna. But what is it like for someone new to the program?  I’d like to introduce to you a couple of the members of the Class of 2011-2013, Martha Ramirez, SPHR from the Society for Human Resources Management and Donte Shannon from the Association of American Medical Colleges.  Recently, I had the pleasure of talking to them about their experiences as a new DELP scholar.

Association Advocacy Chick: What led each of you to apply for the Diversity Executive Leadership Program?

Martha Ramirez: The DELP program is one of a kind in the association world or any other industry for that matter. I wanted to be part of a community that would allow me to grow and develop with peers who were like me, who understood our unique challenges. As a female Latina, I don’t see a lot of people like me and with DELP, I believe I am receiving exposure but also want to be a role model for others. We learn from each other and from the DELPers that came before us.

Donte Shannon: Before DELP, I had not met many non-profit executives who looked like me. I expressed this concern, along with an uncertainty of whether I belonged in non-profit management, with my co-worker Valerie Clark. She informed me about the DELP program and elaborated on the experiences and opportunities that she has taken advantage of   being a DELP Scholar. After hearing what she had to say, and doing some research online about ASAE, I thought that DELP would be just the thing I needed in order to keep my career momentum steady.

AAC: Donte, what qualities must one possess to be a DELP Scholar?

DS: Common qualities that I have noticed among DELP Scholars are:

  • Relentless ambition
  • A sense of purpose and direction
  • A hunger for personal growth and career development
  • Independent thinker
  • An element of fun & adventure

AAC: Martha, as a member of the class of 2011-2013, what are the expectations for you and your classmates over the next year and a half?

MR: The program is really up to each person to make it what they want. For me, it introduced me to a whole new community of peers and leaders. We are given a variety of networking and coaching opportunities and invited to be part of the broader association community. It’s really up to us to invest the time and the effort to leverage those opportunities and make something happen for ourselves and for other diverse colleagues. For some, that may be the avenue to a new opportunity and for others it may be just learning how to work better with what you have. In any case, we grow and learn and that’s a great thing.

AAC: Donte, there’s been a lot of discussion about visibility in the association community. What role does DELP play in increasing the visibility of association professionals from underrepresented backgrounds?

DS: In my opinion, the most significant role DELP has in increasing visibility is through networking opportunities. DELP continues to provide a more enriched networking opportunity for me than any other means of networking in the association world. I don’t believe that I would have been able to shake hands with half of the association executives that I have met in the past six months, had I not been a DELP Scholar.

AAC: Martha, six months into the program, what have you gained from your experience?

MR: A new family and community. The program is over 10 years old and the alumni are just as engaged and involved as the current class. It’s refreshing to see this level of participation.

AAC: What’s the one thing you both wished you knew about DELP that you’ve learned since becoming a scholar?

MR: I wish I knew what a powerful, connected and engaged group I was joining so that I could have started networking with them SOONER! I feel so honored to be part of this program. Now that I’ve come to know some of these people, I am constantly impressed and amazed at what they have to offer and what I can learn from them. As I get more into it, I also want to know more about what I can do for others and how I can give back, whether they are in DELP or not. We need to support and encourage one another.

DS: I wish I had known more about the legacy of leadership that past DELP Scholars have created. While I’m honored to be a part of this great group of professionals, it’s intimidating to know that I too, have been selected as a DELP Scholar in order to continue this legacy.

Applications for the DELP class of 2012-2014 are now being accepted.  All applications and supporting materials are due to ASAE no later than Friday March 16 at 5:00 pm Eastern.  To learn more about DELP or to apply, please click here.

Welcome to 2012: Challenge accepted

This time last year, I wrote about how I aimed to be a better person professionally and personally.  For the most part, I’ve shown some real growth in both areas.  However, the effort to become better doesn’t end at the stroke of midnight.  Like dancing and meditation, it’s now a part of my DNA.

So what should I talk about during this first week of the new year? Well, the amazing Maddie Grant issued a challenge to blog about the topic How are you going to change the world in 2012?  A large task indeed.  I mean I’m a small spoke in a very large wheel.  What can I possibly do to change the world?  After giving it some thought, I came up with two rather simple goals.

1. Increase the number of voices that are rarely heard in the association blogosphere. In the 17+ months this blog has been in existence, I’ve learned just how rare it is to see someone who looked like me or do what I do as a regular blogger in the association community.  I want to change that.  If I can influence one new voice in this area, I’ve accomplished my goal.

2. Kick assumptions and stereotypes in the ass.  From Presidential candidates, to hip-hop artists, to the media, I have been pegged as angry, obese, uneducated, over sexed, lonely, and ugly.  In 2012, I’m going to shock, surprise, and outrage those who uphold these stereotypes of black women.  I’m going to challenge what others think I should be reading or listening to or even who I should date.  I’m going to make it downright impossible to place me in a specific box.

Obviously, these goals may not be as simple as I made them out to be.  However, I love a good challenge.