L is for Lobbying

Day four of the September SCALERS series:

Lobbying: “the  effectiveness with which the organization is able to advocate for government actions that may work in its favor.” (Bloom & Chatterji, 2009)

This piece was originally published on the blog Accelerating Achievement and is bring reprinted with permission. Accelerating Achievement features news and research from the Developmental Education Initiative, an effort by MDC, a nonprofit in Chapel Hill, N.C., to scale up effective remedial education practices at community colleges and states that were early participants in Achieving the Dream, a national community college reform effort. DEI is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation.


SCALERS Series: L is for Lobbying

Since “lobbying” has very specific—and sometimes negative—connotations, for some people, we like to call this driver “demonstrating impact.” 

In order to secure and sustain support for an expansion plan, you’ve got to articulate to institutional, state, and federal decision makers that expanding (and/or continuing) a particular practice or program will have substantial benefits relative to costs. These same arguments must be made to individuals delivering the program as well as program participants. Scaling up a program or practice that has been successful on a small scale may require some disruption of organizational culture; this intensifies the imperative to clearly demonstrate how such change will advance institutional priorities—or why those institutional priorities need to change.

No matter what program you’re expanding, you should start by articulating the rationale for expansion and the connection to the college’s larger strategic plan. Then, consider what data you need to show how effective the strategy is at meeting the specified goal for the specified target population. Since it’s Equity Week at Accelerating Achievement, we encourage you to analyze data disaggregated by race, income, and other demographic factors and identify achievement gaps among student populations. If closing these gaps is an institutional priority for your college and one of the desired outcomes of your program, then it is essential that you analyze the evidence for how effectively the program accomplishes this goal. You should also ensure that your organization has the institutional research capacity to collect, measure, and communicate all of these data elements.

Collecting and analyzing data only serves this driver if you get to the demonstrating step. Make a plan to share information about program outcomes—within the organization, within the broader community, and with individuals who are in positions to influence program continuation, innovation, and further expansion. Your team should include individuals who can connect to state and federal policy decision makers; these individuals must have access to up-to-date information about program outcomes. Consider ways that those delivering program services and those participating can inform policy decisions through advocacy and information sharing. All these relationships and practices require that the organization consider other SCALERS drivers, in particular CommunicatingAlliance-Building, and Sustaining Engagement.

For an example of the power of data, we refer you back to one of this blog’s first posts from Michael Collins, program director at Jobs for the Future.  JFF developed the DEI State Policy Strategy, a state-level developmental education improvement strategy, with three action priorities:

  • A data-driven improvement process that ensures the right conditions for innovation.
  • A state-level innovation investment strategy that helps states align and coordinate support from multiple sources to provide incentives for the development, testing, and scaling up of effective models for helping underprepared students succeed.
  • Policy supports that provide a foundation for improved outcomes for underprepared students, facilitate the implementation of effective and promising models, and encourage the spread of successful practices.

By focusing on data-driven planning, resource coordination, and policy that supports effective practice, JFF’s strategy provides a framework for demonstrating impact at the college, system, and state level.