We lobby because we want elected officials to understand our issues and support our policy goals, so that they too can become advocates for our values and the changes we want to see in the world.
Government officials expect to learn about important issues and solutions from constituents, advisors and key stakeholders, and so lobbying is a great opportunity to help politicians get to know us—to help them understand our priority issues and goals.
Authenticity is Key
We don’t need to be professional lobbyists to convince politicians to support our goals. We just need to be authentic. When policies affect our lives, WE are the real, everyday experts on the issues. We just need to talk about what we know, share personal stories about how we’ve been impacted by specific issues, and demonstrate how policy changes could positively impact the people and communities where we live.
Set Up a Meeting with Your Government Representative
Find the Right Contact
Finding out which government representatives to connect with is much simpler than you might think. Open North has created a tool that locates your representatives based on your postal code, and provides details on how to contact them. This tool facilitates government transparency and civic participation by helping you find your federal MP, your provincial MLA and your municipal council members.
Be clear on the issues that you want to discuss. SCWIST has identified some issues that need to be addressed to advance more women in STEM including: hiring practices, target setting for leadership positions, accountability for gender policies, gender pay gaps, affordable childcare, parental leave policies and access to flexible work options.
It’s important to only focus on 1 – 2 issues max. in a 5 minute call. If you are emailing, be sure to ensure your communication is a concise message so that your representative can quickly recognise your main points. Remember to pick topics you are passionate about, have some knowledge on, and can share a personal story about. This will ensure everyone understands why a policy change would have a positive impact on you and your community.
Lobbying in a Group?
It’s really beneficial to include other people and stakeholders affected by the issue in your lobbying efforts, so lobbying in a group is an excellent strategy. Assign a lead person to open and close the meeting, and determine who will take the lead on each issue presented. Decide on how to divide up your time and let your government representative know if you’d like them to ask questions during the meeting or at the end. Here is a sample AGENDA based upon a 20-minute face-to-face or online meeting. Sample Agenda
|Say hello and thank the MP for meeting||Person A||[# mins]|
|Introduce yourselves||Person A, B and so on||[# mins]|
|Introduce purpose and Issue #1||[# mins]|
|Issue #2||[# mins]|
|Ask your government representative if they have any questions or comments||[# mins]|
|Ask to take a screenshot of the meeting that you can post on social media||[# mins]|
|Thank your government representative for their time|
Prepare for contingencies – what if:
- Your representative isn’t alone or doesn’t show up: It is possible that an assistant may attend on your representative’s behalf – this doesn’t need to change your agenda. Creating an effective connection can open the door to more conversations.
- Your meeting is cancelled or needs to end quickly: Be prepared by having your key issues and any follow-up questions ready to send by email for later reflection.
During the Meeting
- Stay focused: Your representative will be interested in what you have to say. Some will be supportive, others might be preoccupied with their own interests or some may disagree with your position. Don’t let this distract you, see this as an opportunity to show an alternate point of view.
- Know your subject: Speak about what you know and how it affects you and other people in your community. If you are asked a question that you can’t answer, offer to get back to them with that information (and be sure that you follow through).
- Be clear and stick to the point: Focus your comments on the topic you want to discuss, and don’t presume that your representative understands the issues and your point of view. Speak with confidence and remember that your goal is to persuade your audience that your opinion matters.
- Listen actively: Try to determine where there is agreement and any reasons for disagreement. Avoid arguing with your representative and never make things personal. If you find support for your position, you’ll need their help to persuade decision-makers at higher levels of government – and don’t be afraid to ask for it!
- Leave the door open: Work to prevent outright rejection of your position – by focusing on areas of agreement, not differences. Remember, the goal of lobbying is to make your position known. Changing minds takes time, which is why lobbying is more than a one-time, one-person event.
- Take a few notes: Try to assess if your representative is onside with your position or not. This will help you determine a strategy to overcome objections and encourage engagement in the future.
- Wrap up the meeting: Thank your representative for their time and be sure to fully close the online meeting portal. Plan to meet up with your team after (on a separate call) to review how the meeting went, what worked well and what you would do differently next time.
After the Meeting
Send a follow-up email to your representative, to thank them for their time. Be sure to include any additional information you may have promised in the meeting, repeat your main requests and any commitments that were made. If you think there is more to cover, set up another meeting.