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Developing Our Collective Voice

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Overview of a Proposed Public Policy Pilot Project

Most of our NC branches have not designated a public policy coordinator to follow legislation, update branch members and alert them when contact with legislators is critical. Nonetheless, those in attendance at the annual meeting in High Point in March 2011 agreed that public policy (PP) was a priority issue among other programs on the newly structured AAUW NC Board.

AAUW NC officers, as well as Mary Peterson and Elaine Ostrowski (prior AAUW NC PP coordinators), have been discussing how to translate this understanding into a branch project in 2011-2012.

Agreed Points in Discussion

  • The goal of a PP pilot project is to realize the collective potential of AAUW NC to affect public policy on issues affecting girls and women, especially at the state level.
  • This goal can be met by identifying branches or members of branches who are interested in influencing public policy.
  • The task of monitoring PP must be easy for a branch/member to manage.
  • Focusing on a few specific pieces of legislation – rather than the entire gambit of women’s issues –  is “doable” for most branches/members.
  • Not all branches will choose to participate but for those that do, branches will choose  one legislative issue which reflects the interests and/or expertise of their members.
  • Regardless of the issue, participating branches/members will need tools as well as a clear set of expectations to participate in the PP pilot project.
  • Implementing a PP pilot project will be governed by the time frames of the sessions at the state level (long and short sessions in Raleigh) and at the federal level (short breaks).

Update on the Project Discussion

The pilot project committee is developing a list of public policy issues which are central in the lives of girls and women. Branches/members that choose to participate in the pilot project will select one issue to monitor from this list.

Once the issue is identified, a few key bills will be targeted. The branch/member will be given a resource kit tailored to the targeted bills.

The kit will identify the bills by number and will have a brief content summary. The kit will also include 2-3 web sites, brief talking points and the government web site for tracking the legislation. For NC legislation, the branch/member will also use a government web site to identify legislative committee assignments in both chambers.

Finally, branches/members will receive guidelines on what constitutes “alert” status and how to go about sending an alert.Branch Involvement in the Project. The pilot project committee will schedule face-to-face contact with each branch to explain the project and gauge the interests of the branch or individual members in the branch to participate.If the pilot progress appears worthwhile and effective from the branche’ point of view, an identical approach would be taken in spring 2012, with the focus shifting from the national to the state level when NC legislators reconvene in May 2012.