On March 4th, Westchester Children’s Association (WCA) co-facilitated an afternoon, advocacy workshop with our good friends at the Child Care Council of Westchester (CCCW) as part of the Nonprofit Westchester’s (NPW) Emerging Leaders Program. WCA advocates every day for Westchester’s children and aims to make advocacy tangible and actionable for everyone. This is our second year in the program, and we were honored to teach a new cohort of 27 rising nonprofit leaders about the ins and outs of our work.
We began the session with a game to reveal the importance of advocacy in decision-making. In the game, we tasked participants to create a local budget covering several issue areas of high need with limited funding. Before decisions could be made, participants had to persuade the group to prioritize needs that they felt were most urgent and would impact those who are most vulnerable. They quickly saw that certain factors, including public support and persuasion with information and reasoning, drive community outcomes through these decisions. In fact, it was clear that speaking up for community needs – i.e. advocating – was the only way to guarantee that these needs were addressed.
As the workshop continued, we asked participants to reflect on how they have spoken up for change in their lives in an attempt to demystify advocacy and show how universal it is and can be. Several parents in the group shared how they have spoken up for their children in school settings. Others shared their efforts for change in their communities on specific topics such as child care, law enforcement, and social services using their passion to address problems and challenges they have experienced firsthand.
As WCA continued to teach about advocacy, it was exciting to see the Emerging Leaders recognize for themselves advocacy for children affects their own nonprofit roles and efforts due to our common context and shared goal of improving circumstances for the same children and families. By the end of the session, everyone on the Zoom session felt empowered by our discussion connecting direct services to the systems-level change advocacy that WCA focuses on every day. All participants were in agreement that successful advocacy requires addressing the root causes of all problems – something WCA passionately does every day for Westchester’s children.
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