Friday, November 8, 2013

Ask an Advisor: How to contact a policy maker

Ask an Advisor featured question, by Nate Israel

      Ask an Advisor is a feature from the Community Tool Box in which anyone around the world seeking for advice regarding community work, could find a brief and personalized response. For this week’s post, we feature the following question:

QuestionHello, I am taking a healthcare policy class and I would like to know how to contact a policy maker with regards to my policy issue/request. What office do I call on the local level to get an appointment with a policy maker. Thank you 

AnswerThis is a great question. We all want to be able to figure out how to make an impact, and talking to local policymakers is one potential way to make an impact in a local community. In order to get the most out of your interaction, there are some things you can do ahead of making contact. The first thing is to figure out to whom your policy perspective matters. Public health departments, particularly in large cities, are often tremendously varied in their responsibilities. Employees’ responsibilities often range from prevention to intervention, and the areas of concern may range from ensuring animal welfare to preventing cancer to administering publicly-funded hospitals. Understanding the structure of the department, and targeting your request for an audience to the person(s) for whom the policy is most relevant, will help insure that all parties gain from the interaction. The second is to be clear about what you are offering. Officials in policy capacities are often very considerably under-resourced. Be clear about what you are offering. For example, you may be offering direct feedback on a policy’s effects in the community, access to a previously unknown resource for implementing a policy, or a summary of information about the potential usefulness of a new policy in your community (among myriad possibilities). Once you have clarified your intended audience and your message, contacting the policy official is relatively easy. Nearly all public officials have their contact information available on the public website of the appropriate department. Alternately, you can call the department directly and ask for the person’s contact information. E-mail contact is often very useful; it allows you to succinctly introduce yourself and describe the nature of your preferred contact. It also allows you to forward along any materials germane to the meeting. This may be especially helpful if the policymaker is particularly pressed for time. All the best as you move forward with this.


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