Oh boy, here we go! The 83rd Texas Legislative Session started last week, and I fully anticipate this one being as exciting, exhausting, rewarding, and at times as infuriating as the six ones I’ve worked in before. See, for a living, I try to help change policies to improve the lives of Texas kids. But that’s not something you have to be a professional to do. Anyone with some passion and determination can make a difference in the 140 days when the Texas legislature meets every other year. It just takes some preparation. Here are my recommendations for building an advocacy toolbox:
1. Connect with people. Without a doubt, the most valuable asset I have in my work is the amazing, passionate people I have the privilege to work with. From my talented and committed co-workers and partners, to the knowledgeable state and legislative staffers who offer their information and expertise, to the voices of families and youth who inform the issues and policies I advocate for, to the people across the state–most of whom I’ve never even met–who take a brief moment of their day to pick up the phone and call their legislators’ offices and demand that Texas do what’s right for its children. Connect with others, because change comes about through people, each doing their own part, each action as valuable as the next.
2. Use technology. Really, how did people stay up-to-date and connected before the age of internet, e-mail, mobile phones, live and archived streams of legislative hearings, and social media? Here are some tools I find super helpful in staying up to date and getting the word out to others during the legislative session:
- Texas Legislature Online. Read and track bills, find out who represents you and how you can contact them, sign up for alerts when bills you care about are scheduled to be heard. Watch live or past video broadcasts from the comfort of your very own desk, or even your couch!
- The Texas Tribune. Check out their Government: Legislature page especially.
- Email. If there’s an issue you’re interested in, it’s very likely there’s a group out there sending out alerts and updates on it to keep you in the loop. (Here are the different action alerts you can sign-up for with Texans Care for Children, where I work.)
- Twitter. I’m a latecomer to Twitter, but I’m glad I jumped on the bandwagon this session, because it’s a great way to see what people at and around the Capitol are talking about. (You can follow me on Twitter at @josettesaxton and Texans Care at @putkids1st). You can also follow legislators: check out the Texas Tribune’s handy list of legislative Twitter handles.
- Texans Care for Children. Seriously. I promise this isn’t a shameless plug! I repeatedly use our site for quick access to information, and it has tons of tips on how to advocate. (The photos of adorable kids on the site are just an added bonus.)
3. Keep words of wisdom in mind. I admit that I can get overwhelmed in the fast-paced craziness that is the Texas Legislative Session. There’s so much going on, so much needing to be done, and seemingly so little time to do it. So when I’m feeling like I’m about to sink under the weight of it all, I look to some wise words I’ve collected around me to help lift me up and keep my eyes on the ball.
Here’s a sampling of my mantras:
“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out…” – Robert J. Collier
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” – Helen Keller
Celebrate the small wins.
“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.” – Winnie-the-Pooh
Written by: Josette Saxton