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Advocates across the country are (already) making 2021 a year of bold progressive change

2020 was a year marked by language like, “in these challenging times,” and “unprecedented.” Now that we find ourselves living through the start of 2021…well, we are still using this same vernacular. The acts of violence, injustice and consistent threats to our humanity we saw last year have not disappeared simply because the year that never ended finally did. But our words matter and it’s time we start using new ones.

As we dive deeper into the new year, we are not slowing down in our push for progressive change on issues like the racial justice, climate, health care, education, criminal justice reform, LGBTQIA+ equality and reproductive justice. We know that 2021 can be a year of bold, necessary change. We know this because we’re already seeing it happen. But there is more work to be done to realize our shared vision for a more prosperous future.

These are some tips for how social justice communicators can embrace bold advocacy and outreach this year.

Celebrate and amplify the progress you’ve made.

While it’s easy for many of us to get lost as we doom scroll through horrific national headlines, we have to remind ourselves that history-making progressive change is happening in communities everywhere. Advocates and community groups are working tirelessly, devoting their lives to the causes they care about most – and they’re seeing success. 

While not necessarily on brand for 2020 (or 2021), we have made incredible progress on a number of important issues. There is value in celebrating these victories and showcasing how every win is a building block toward a better future. When we share success stories, we instill hope in our audiences and inspire them to keep pushing forward.

Last week, we saw the Biden administration immediately take executive actions aligned with a civil rights agenda, prompting groups to celebrate these changes as powerful first steps. This two tweet thread from our partners at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a great example of offering a dose of inspiration without losing perspective.

Advocate unapologetically.

Every advocacy win you achieve, big or small, provides an opportunity to pause, celebrate, recharge and then think bigger about pushing toward your vision. No matter what issue you advocate for, it cannot be solved with one march, one piece of legislation or one change in political leadership. 

For example, in a recent blog post, What’s the Deal with the First 100 Days, and Why Does it Matter?, our partners at Ben & Jerry’s describe the reasons why they remain hopeful about the new administration’s plans related to the economy, pandemic relief, climate change and racial justice. However, they don’t stop there. Rather, they then go on to share an entire list of issues and pieces of legislation that they “definitely think should be on the president’s to-do list.”

Similarly, United We Dream recently shared an Instagram post expressing their appreciation for seeing what they call the “most progressive immigration bill ever” introduced by the new administration, and still, they continue to remain focused on a bigger vision, stating: “Our work continues…” 

These wins were made possible by tireless advocacy powered by communities across the country. Organizations should celebrate their wins, thank their supporters and reinforce how much their work made a difference – while continuing to paint a picture of what’s possible if they keep building on the momentum they’ve created.

Don’t play defense. There is no need to reiterate your opposition’s talking points.

Knowing your audiences’ barriers to action and what your opposition says to draw supporters away from your cause is important. But, how you address these barriers is critical to moving your work forward. You don’t need to repeat these barriers to overcome them, and playing too strong on the defensive can give your opponents a free advantage. Our issues are massive and have major implications for the world we’re living in. We win when we paint a picture of the future we seek, not when we spend our time defending the cost of seeking it.

For example, National Nurses United effectively overcomes barriers around the cost of universal health care by sharing graphics and messages that showcase how Medicare for All will ultimately save money on health care spending in the United States. The graphic strategically cites data from a right-leaning research center, showcasing not just the financial viability of universal health care, but also its bipartisan support. This approach avoids repeating negative critiques from opponents of Medicare for All while, at the same time, proving their opposition wrong with positive, data-driven messaging that supports their stance.

The Women’s Sports Foundation is also effective at overcoming barriers when fighting transphobia in sports. In a recent statement opposing a bill that would discriminate against trans student athletes, foundation spokesperson and professional athlete, Meghan Duggan grounds audiences in what really matters: That every child deserves access to the benefit sports and physical activity provide.

In the end, 2021 has yet to bring the magical remedy to all of 2020’s ailments like some might have hoped. But it’s clear that this year, already, has started to provide some new opportunities for advancing progress across a variety of issue areas in the United States. 

Let’s keep powering our movements forward by amplifying our wins, building on the momentum, seamlessly overcoming barriers to action, and advocating unapologetically for the better world we’re working to build.


This entry was posted on Friday, January 29, 2021 at 09:40 am and is filed under Communication planning and Frame, narrative and message development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.