A baker’s dozen strategies organizations may use to inform state-level policymaking bodies


This is the fourth blog installment discussing organizations’ advocacy efforts and state-level policymaking.

Here are the takeaways:

  • Organizations may find themselves contending with policymaker aims contrary to long-held organizational values, which may be intensified by the rise of “entrepreneurial” politics and politicians, particularly at the national level.
  • Use of consortia (or broad-based inter-organizational alliances) may provide organizations the ability to affect policymaking in a broader, collegial sense, involving organizations having similar and dissimilar aims, although turf may prove prohibitive. (Admittedly, some existing alliances seek to achieve mutual inter-organizational aims or goals.)
  • Increasingly, ubiquitous social media venues influence organizational advocacy, meaning the need for consistent procedures and practices.
  • Organizations, operating through “multidimensional” segments, may be able to best address future advocacy stances, although balanced with organizational aims or goals crafted to meet emerging policy developments.

The baker’s dozen:

  1. Organizational advocacy exists as a continuum with eyes, fully open in the present, laid wide on the past while looking to what’s known or predictable about the future – Janus-like approach.[i]
  2. Anti-fragile[ii] isn’t the same as organizational persecution complex.[iii] The former may be growth-inducing, prompted when organizational stances, actions or proposals are scrutinized against policymaker aims; the latter, resigned defensiveness, which, at most, may yield  crocodile tears.
  3. Catastrophizing[iv] may be a formidable advocacy strategy if infrequently used or used to advantage. The sky is falling[v] approach often proves irritating not only to policymakers but also most everyone else. Catastrophizing may be apt if the organization provides credible evidence its core values would be eroded or destroyed because of policymaker aims if not modified,[vi] which differs from rehashed, historic cant.    Finally, no matter what policymakers do or have done, the sun appears each morning, although little immediate comfort or consolation. Hear Hubert Humphrey out: “Oh, my friend, it’s not what they take away from you that counts – it’s what have left.”[vii] Yes, advocacy groups will need to dust themselves off occasionally, climbing back into the arena. [viii]
  1. Canem adprehendit automobile or “the dog catches the automobile.” What’s next? What contingencies?  ‘Catching the car’ is different from keeping the car ‘caught,’ especially as mediated by elections. Policymaker/organizational scrapes gone badly, based on an organization’s defense of values or non-negotiables, happen. [ix] Repurposing an Eastern proverb, “the frog in the well (will know) nothing of the sea”[x] if the organization focuses on limitations, based on scrapes which result in ties or defeat. (Or, for that matter, seeing victory or partial victory as summative, aka resting on laurels.) Accordingly, policymakers may introduce nudges and boosts to widen an organization’s “appreciation” of policymakers goals, especially those perceived as voter mandates. [xi]
  2. As poet T.S. Eliot says, “All truths are private truths.”[xii] There is truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, which organizational  advocates swear to affirm when testifying before West Virginia Legislature Committees.  There are facts, data, information, statistics (data). Data, however, is wisely and widely subjected to interpretation by policymakers, various constituencies, based on variables such as timeliness, source(s), format, fact-checking or even anecdotal “data,” which often gains coinage when constituent share their truths with policymakers at public gatherings, in grocery store conversations, church, civic or community events. Hint: The best organizational approach may include combining quantitative and quality data, i.e., empirical research and focus group input.[xiii]
  3. Organizations should embrace consortia, which requires long-term, deliberative thought, although not abandoning advantageous coalition involvement. Consortia promote dialogue between and among similar and dissimilar parties, based on breadth and depth of shared, aligned or countervailing policy issues. Coalitions, by design, often end in “the middle,” providing anointed and invigorated energy and even initiative and cover for often larger, more widely known coalition progenitors, having much to lose if taking a unilateral position.[xiv] Consortia, again, comprised of diverse, non-aligned organizations, approach their tasks in “parliament” settings, whereas coalitions are established through invitational appointment of broad constituencies often to achieve singular aims (such as support or opposition to constitutional amendments). Consortia emphasize structured dialogue without an aim for consensus, issues position papers, establishing an array or “well” of data dashboards available to the policyholders and the public, sponsoring educational seminars, etc. Again, coalition membership must not be discounted as a delimited strategy.  (Of course, existing inter-organizational alliances support mutual policy aims, such as business, labor, or health care alliances.)
  4. Organizations, including advocacy departments, exist at various levels, with their leadership responsible for scanning the environment, seeking to bolster organizational strengths and to ward threats. Finding balance is key, equipping the organization to meet emergent – or long-term – demands and challenges. Moving those on the ground (rank-and-file), however, becomes critical. While successful organizations are advised to be nimble,[xv] their leaders cannot embrace policy shifts that “cancel” or “sacrifice” organizational values or non-negotiables.[xvi] If not preparing for emergent policy shifts, organizations may doom their rank-and-file – those on the ground[xvii] – due to changing policy menus, resulting from elections or overt acts of policymakers whose statutes, policies, rules and regulation may affect those “on the ground” directly. While wrong menus may  emerge, disturbing customary  orderliness,  the old adage  – “if you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu” – may prove telling.[xviii] Moreover, organizations can structure themselves with “forward-looking” sectors  – think consortia membership as cited above –  as long as messaging is clear, meaning the organization enunciates, through proper parties, official pronouncements regarding its policy concerns,  with means to solidify membership support  through “aligned messaging.” [xix]
  5. In the case you have not noticed, ‘summer of love politics’ seems on its last legs, although some observers contend 60s political mystique was felled by capitalism in the late 1960s, prefiguring today’s politics through policy actions during the last 40-50 years.[xx] Organizations retain stability in polarized times,  although seeking the baleful middle or rush to bipartisanship appears to be fading as a “go-to” strategy, certainly nationally. [xxi]  Wise leaders equip organizations to maximize potential for change so organizations will be or remain valued by policymakers, especially over the long-haul. The key is organizational  “multidimensionality,” that allows organization shape-shifters to “shift” or pivot, addressing policymakers’ emergent aims while retaining organizational values and non-negotiables to maintain resilience.[xxii]
  6. While Under the Eye of Power: How Fear of Secret Societies Shapes American Democracy[xxiii]is a commendable read, is the world comprised of conspiracies, often “typed” as  including cabals of malefactors ready to edge the unalert into numerous abysses? This thinking is mainstream. Accordingly, elected policymakers are seen as most capable of dealing with complexity through removing ambiguities “efficiently,” by eliminating what a  federal health agency defines as “uncertainty intolerance.”[xxiv] Truth in part but liability in a larger sense because, as issues become weighted with greater complexities, policy dilemmas may become intractable, resulting in governance paralysis, i.e. Washington dysfunction, especially if balanced budgets are not mandated, but spending authorized through  “continuing fiscal resolutions.” Moreover, TV, podcasters  and social media types seemingly rush history to achieve their enunciated ends with real time efficiency, guaranteeing amped ratings – even cult status. Yet, does not history unfold generations later?[xxv] Wise organizations welcome open, expansive sweeps of narratives in a time when  generalists,[xxvi] including CEOs as preferred entrepreneurs, are besting siloed organizational staff. [xxvii]  Effective organizations espy opportunities from disorder while political bases may seek absolutism, especially in a time characterized by what Bret Stephens, quoting Tablet’s Alana Newhouse,  terms “brokenness.”[xxviii] Relatedly, entrepreneurs (or, at least, entrepreneurial thinking) is prized today as an economic prompt for economic development much as the efforts of 19th Century capitalist tycoons were lauded.[xxix] Moreover, politicians whose campaigns are framed around eliminating ambiguities or nuance appear to be on the rise, although policymaking is both process and passion, the latter often besting the former, because the public, willing to accept fundamental certainties, views institutions and process as increasingly suspect – a consideration Stephens also makes.
  7. Social Media, including AI, is ubiquitous. As a West Virginia Department of Education official reported to the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Education, policymakers provide parameters of responsible use for AI – as a matterof policy they must decide. [xxx]. Moreover, “X,” formerly Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, email, podcasts, and various forms of electronic media provide a way to influence policymaking in “real time.” Organizations, however, need policies and procedures for use of social media without sole reliance on this communications medium. Carefully crafted social media use can amplify organizational pronouncements.Think policymaker public hearings.Some advocacy groups, during the allotted time at the hearing, will mention supporting information is available on the organization’s website or will provide that detail at the hearing, including hardcopy.
  8. Organizations equip members with sufficient, useful, credible information appropriate to organizational divisions or levels, meaning variances, but, again, “aligned messaging” and the medium or media for such, including one-on-one dialogue with policymakers based on organizational positions held. For instance, school system excess levy proponents include both professional educators and school service personnel as well as school administrators and county board members – as regulated by law. Each grouping bears differing  messaging emphases, based on organizational positioning,  to enhance support for excess levies, e.g., salary and benefits enhancements, facilities enhancements, school safety enhancements.[xxxi]
  9. Advocacy is only one facet of an organization’s outputs, but critical in its own right. Effective organizations plan to, restating the above, function in the present, while looking to the past for direction and guidance, to embrace the future fully. Organizations whose leaders pull far ahead of members may place the organization and/or their positions in jeopardy. Moreover, policymakers often want an identified or “go-to” leader (or leaders) to ensure organizational positional solidity is being espoused, based on delegate assemblies, governing boards or other sanctioned or appropriate intra-organizational units having these responsibilities. Diverse consortia also provide organizations the ability to engage in “look-aheads.” Jared Diamond points out many advocacy groups do not have the capacity to fully realize their goals, although organizations – corporations in this case – may conclude goals such as materials recycling, energy conservation or alternative energy sources benefit society at large.[xxxii] Governor Jim Justice echoed a related sentiment when referring to fossil fuels and the state’s emphasis on use of alternate energy sources and enterprises in his January 10 State of the State address.[xxxiii]
  10. The West Virginia Constitution states:The powers of government reside in all the citizens of the state, and can be rightfully exercised only in accordance with their will and appointment.[xxxiv]

Labor West unions, school employee organizations, business groups, health groups, and other associations and organizations provide West Virginia citizens amplified voices to inform and influence policymaking.

As citizens we must not only hold ourselves accountable but also our elected officials entrusted to represent us.[xxxv]



[i] https://www.andersonlock.com/blog/god-doors/#:~:text=As%20the%20god%20of%20transitions,or%20openings%20between%20spatial%20boundaries.

[ii] https://fs.blog/antifragile-a-definition/

[iii] https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/01/11/how-to-manage-the-arrogant-victim-mindset/?sh=1c5237e038d8 Admittedly, inexact application, although there are similar elements at play between policymakers and organizational advocates.

[iv] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/catastrophizing

[v] Henny Penny,” more commonly known in the United States as “Chicken Little” and sometimes as “Chicken Licken,” is a European folk tale a moral in the form of a cumulative tale about a chicken who believes that the world is coming to an end. The phrase “The sky is falling!” features prominently in the story and has passed into the English language as a common idiom indicating a hysterical mistaken belief that disaster is imminent. Similar stories go back more than 25 centuries[1] and “Henny Penny” continues to be referred to in a variety of media. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henny_Penny#:~:text=%22Henny%20Penny%22%2C%20more%20commonly,is%20coming%20to%20an%20end.

[vi]https://annecorder.co.uk/employers-blog/understanding-your-workplace-non-negotiables/#:~:text=Your%20workplace%20non%2Dnegotiables%20outline,your%20workplace%2C%20colleagues%20and%20customers  is a representative read. %20end.

[vii]  https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/hubert-h-humphrey-quotes

[viii] https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/44567.Theodore_Roosevelt

[ix] https://www.mr-sustainability.com/why-how-what-who/clear-non-negotiables

[x]  https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Chinese_Stories/The_frog_of_the_well#:~:text=The%20Chinese%20text%20is%20a,in%20a%20well%2C%20has%20a

[xi] https://pure.mpg.de/rest/items/item_2513866_5/component/file_2514744/content


[xii] https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/t_s_eliot_

[xiii] https://betterthesis.dk/research-methods/lesson-1different-approaches-to-research/combining-qualitative-and-quantitative-methods#:~:text=In%20practice%2C%20most%20researchers%20agree,understanding%20of%20a%20research%20area. Or, 402054      https://www.surveymonkey.com/mp/quantitative-vs-qualitative-research/#:~:text=Simply%20put%2C%20quantitative%20data%20gets,understand%20the%20differences%20between%20them.

[xiv] https://justassociates.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/new_weave_en_ch17.pdf

[xv] https://fundingforgood.org/build-a-nimble-organization/#:~:text=Nimble%20organizations%20are%20purpose%2Ddriven,organization%20also%20requires%20nimble%20leadership. Excellent read.

[xvi] See Endnote 6.

[xvii] https://chopwoodcarrywaterllc.com/index.php/2023/11/27/state-level-policymaking-bodies-and-organizations-weather-climate-analogies-relating-to-policy-determination/

[xviii]  https://quoteinvestigator.com/2020/11/15/table-menu/   https://www.haystackteam.com/blog/three-key-elements-of-messaging-alignment#:~:text=Aligned%20messaging%20unites%20senior%20leadership,effective%20marketing%20and%20communication%20campaigns.

[xix] https://www.haystackteam.com/blog/three-key-elements-of-messaging-alignment#:~:text=Aligned%20messaging%20unites%20senior%20leadership,effective%20marketing%20and%20communication%20campaigns

[xx] https://daily.jstor.org/the-summer-of-love-wasnt-all-peace-and-hippies/

[xxi] https://corg.iu.edu/programs/hamilton-views/comments-on-congress/Bipartisanship%20Isnt%20Dead,%20But%20Its%20Not%20In%20Good%20Health,%20Either%20.html

[xxii] https://dainamiddleton.com/shape-shifter-importance-building-organizational-resilience/ organizational shape-shifter

[xxiii] https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/11/books/review/under-the-eye-of-power-colin-dickey.html

[xxiv] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9747232/

[xxv] Interesting read: https://maineinitiatives.org/news/history-is-written-by-the-victors

[xxvi] https://davidepstein.com/the-range/

[xxvii] https://www.shopify.com/blog/entrepreneur-examples

[xxviii] https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/11/opinion/columnists/donald-trump-election.html

[xxix] https://online.maryville.edu/business-degrees/americas-gilded-age/ “…With technology booming and immigrants flocking to the United States seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families, they left their mark on the United States — and on history.”

[xxx] Joint Standing Committee on Education

[xxxi] https://joinit.com/membership-organizations-guide (Refer to” non-profits and advocacy groups.”)

[xxxii] https://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/06/opinion/06diamond.html

[xxxiii] “…We need to diversify our economies. We need to never, never, never forget our coal miners, our gas workers and our fossil fuels…I said diversify the economy. We could not just depend on one industry all the time…But we couldn’t depend on the one industry all the time. But we don’t forget, do we? And you know what happened? Because us putting another stake in the sand and saying we’re not going to forget our fossil fuels…” – https://governor.wv.gov/News/press-releases/2024/Pages/Gov.-Justice-to-deliver-final-State-of-the-State-Address-Wednesday-night.aspx

[xxxiv] https://www.wvlegislature.gov/WVCODE/WV_CON.cfm#articleII

[xxxv] https://wvmetronews.com/2024/01/10/heres-whats-good-about-the-west-virginia-legislature/

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