NSPN Members Learn Local Advocacy Strategies at ESAL Workshop
NSPN recently hosted Engineers and Scientists Acting Locally (ESAL) for a workshop on local advocacy. Central Hub Co-Chairs Jennifer Brown and Marie Fiori share their reflections on the event and how it will inform NSPN’s new Regional Hub projects in the coming year.
On October 5, 2021, NSPN virtually hosted Arti Garg and Chris Jackson from Engineers and Scientists Acting Locally (ESAL) to give a workshop, “Finding the Local Connection: Tackling science policy close to home,” centered on how to identify science policy issues at the local level. After a presentation from Arti and Chris, participants worked in small groups to identify policy plans in their location for issues such as flooding and wildfires.
The first step in identifying local SciPol issues is figuring out at what level to look. Since basically anything other than federal policy can be considered “local” to some extent, you can focus on your state, county, city or neighborhood. Next, since science informs policy on so many topics, it can also be helpful to choose a particular category to aid in choosing a topic, such as the environment, health or infrastructure. Digging into government budgets on your chosen category can be illuminating, since that is a good indicator of where priorities lie.
Once you have chosen a broad issue area, there are many ways to discover topics. Reading your local paper is a great one, letting you see what people are talking about right now. Clicking around on government websites can give you an idea of past, current and future initiatives and issues. Be warned that navigating these websites, which are often not up-to-date or user-friendly, can be challenging, but it’s rewarding! You can also find your local government’s or city council’s regular meeting schedule. Try attending as an audience member or looking up the most recent agenda items to locate science policy topics. There are probably organizations near you working on related issues as well, and looking at their websites or sending an email could reveal an interesting local problem and could even lead to a collaboration.
Once you have identified a topic that interests you, you can begin to educate and advocate. While learning more about an issue, you might find that someone has already proposed a great solution, and your advocacy might be promoting and amplifying their efforts, rather than creating a solution from scratch. Effective ways to communicate your idea include writing articles, speaking at a community meeting, and making appointments to meet with legislators. ESAL has tons of great resources on their website, including a recent series on understanding local budgets. You and your work can also be featured on ESAL’s postcard series—you can submit here.
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