What I’ve learned in 30 years

Yesterday, in Toronto, I had the pleasure to present a class on policy change at the federal level, as part of John Stapleton’s public policy course for advocates and activists.  Twenty-two bright, curious and passionate people in a room at one of WoodGreen’s offices graciously gave me their time and their attention, not to mention their questions, for two hours, while I tried to tell them as much as I could about how policy is made at the federal level, and how and when interventions can be made effectively.

Conscious of how subjective much of this is, I persevered anyway, and feel privileged to have an opportunity to pass on what I’ve learned, most of it from others, over the time I’ve been involved in the federal policy process.  Not only that, it was fun.

The most important (in my view) messages I tried to communicate are these:

1. Don’t make assumptions about the motives of others. Until given compelling evidence to the contrary, assume they are operating in good faith to further goals they believe in.

2. Drive-by advocacy does NOT work.   Without building relationships, you’re unlikely to achieve results with officials, media, or politicians. At any level. On any issue.

3.  Be very clear about what you want, and express it in a way that makes it easy for the other person to listen to it, hear it, and say “yes.”

There you go. That’s what I’ve learned in 30 years.  And what took me two hours to say only yesterday.

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    • Michael Mendelson
    • February 14th, 2010

    Great job Havi! I enjoyed the commentary and the three things you learned. I will follow your blog carefully. (Of course, I also enjoyed the plug for the Caledon Institute.)

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