In science advocacy, it is important to focus not only on what should be done, but how to get it done. Once a science solution emerges, it is important to provide steps to implementation. Oftentimes, admirable goals fall flat because they fail to delineate a clear path to success. So, let’s take a look at two recent, successful state roadmaps to learn key aspects of making progress in Science Advocacy.
Below find a summary of both the Virginia Roadmap to End Hunger and the Georgia Broadband Program and then the lessons learned that can guide future solutions to complex problems.
This Roadmap was released in Virginia in October 2020, and it is a great example of clear, actionable, planning. It sets goals, collects metrics that measure progress, establishes cross-cutting teams, and encourages public-private partnerships.
The report sets multiple aspirational yet measurable goals on how to tackle food insecurity in Virginia and provides concrete ways to meet these goals. For example, the report introduced a goal of expanding senior citizens’ nutrition access. This goal is coupled with concrete actions to meet it: expanding the caseload for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) and increasing participation in federal nutrition programs.
The report dedicates sections to the collection and analysis of data on food insecurity. In doing so, they are able to tailor their solutions to what is most impactful for their state.
The Roadmap also made a point of establishing a team to work on specific aspects of the issue of food insecurity. For example, the Children’s Cabinet. Establishing a team on an issue is a valuable way to ensure that after a goal is reached, the issue is not forgotten, and the solution is sustained.
Lastly, the Roadmap also stresses the importance of public/private partnerships by highlighting multiple community organizations focussing on food insecurity. These organizations should have a seat at the table in on specific teams or community coalitions.
With so many influential tactics to address food insecurity, this report serves as a benchmark for addressing advocacy issues from a scientific perspective.
Another example of exemplary legislation for a plan to tackle a large issue is the Georgia Broadband Program.
Created by Senate Bill 402 in 2018, the program operates with a clear goal: to “bring high-speed internet access to unserved Georgians,” and focuses on concrete ways to meet that goal.
Meeting this goal begins with a focus on collecting data. The Broadband Program created the Georgia Broadband Availability Map, which is updated annually. It includes information from Georgia’s 44 retail internet service providers (see image above) and its level of detail has highlighted areas without internet that were previously listed as having internet.
Again, this legislation develops teams to focus on the issue: the Broadband Advisory Council, which is composed of companies that help advise on broadband expansion, and the Georgia Broadband Team, which is officials who oversee this process. The metrics component and the teams highlight the program’s emphasis on public/private partnerships, especially the involvement of Broadband Providers.
Resources provided on the website include the overall plan, model ordnances, and annual reports on progress.
What does this legislation teach us?
Both successful pieces of legislation share strikingly similar aspects. So, let’s take a look at the keys to successful science legislation.
1. Set a Clear Goal.
Both pieces of legislation set clear, measurable goals surrounding their issue of interest, and those goals guided them in the steps they took. Broad legislation without a measurable goal is likely to get lost before it can make an impact.
2. Collect and analyze data.
Both Virginia and Georgia began looking at their respective issues by collecting data on them. This provides a clear starting point and allows them to focus on what specific areas are doing well and what needs to change. It also helps in measuring progress and justifying the importance of their work.
3. Create teams.
An important aspect of both programs is their focus on creating teams to address the issues. Creating a specific council or team, ensures focus on an issue from many points of view. Thus solutions are built that everyone has ownership in and can carry forward progress.
4. Utilize public/private partnerships.
Partnerships between the public and private sphere are vital. While both public and private organizations can be helpful, they are often focused on a specific niche goal within a larger issue. Partnerships allow the sharing of information and better utilization of resources. Oftentimes, private organizations share interests with the public, and they can be valuable allies, both financially and in expertise, in making change on an issue.
Utilizing these four principles of science advocacy is a way to make real, concrete change on important issues. So, next time you want to get involved and make change on an issue, ask yourself how you can insure that the end result reflects them.