There are no coincidences in politics. If an issue is on a platform or a policy agenda, it’s because someone or a whole lot of someones worked long and hard to put it there. – Effecting Policy Change
It is no accident that all major parties made an election commitment to support family caregivers in the last election. This was due to the persistence and sophisticated advocacy of the Canadian Caregivers Coalition (CCC).
The story of how they sought to influence the Canadian policy landscape in favour of supporting caregivers has just been published in Effecting Policy Change: Lessons from the Canadian Caregivers Coalition.
While CCC was formed in 1999, caregiving in those early years was often seen through the lens of professionals, researchers and funders. By 2007 people like Faye Porter the founding President of CCC called for a renewal – a renewal that would ensure the voice of families was central to their strategy. The story is quite remarkable for the shifts the CCC went through. These include shifts :
- from the voice of professional to the voice of consumers
- from a controlled organizational structure to an open formless 'un-organization'
- from the self interest of organizations to the unselfish willingness of four organizations to support not supplant the family, natural care agenda. (VON Canada, Canadian Home Care Association; Comcare, Centre de santé et de services sociaux Cavendish )
- from hierarchial leadership to distributive personal agency (presided over by the generous and astute Nadine Henningsen)
- from bombarding government with solutions to strategic enquiry
- from funding short term to investing in a process. (The JW McConnell Foundation patiently backed the coalition through all its shifts and reframing.)
There are important lessons from this report for all who want to influence provincial and federal governments. I was particularly pleased my friend and colleague Sean Moore's role in supporting the CCC is acknowledged and expanded on. In fact there is a very useful sidebar entitled, Lessons from a Strategic Inquiry Advisor.
The CCC's Strategic Enquiry was led by Marg McAlister who is quoted in the report as follows:
“We have learned to work both sides of the policy equation. Strategic Inquiry taught us how to have intense conversations. By asking the right questions, you get a wealth of information. You also find out just how much pressure politicians are under, how many complex issues they have to deal with. I’ve learned to keep uppermost that politicians and bureaucrats went into their line of work to make the world better. Acquiring the language of legislation and framing memos to Cabinet that are quickly and easily assimilated into existing areas of knowledge is part of my job. It comes down to serving the person better so they can do the job you need them to do.”
The report ends with a useful list of Lessons for Coalition Builders. My only quibble with the report is its silence around the drama, serendipity and excitement associated with achieving their successes. Having been peripherally involved, I know the the adventure of the Canadian Caregivers Coalition, its members and supporters is worthy of novel treatment!