Recently we have had a large number of Throne Speeches; Budgets; and other Government announcements. Some of these have contained good news for the community sector but you would be hard pressed to read or hear about it.
Have you ever noticed how often we use a positive announcement from government as an opportunity to criticize them – to let them know all the things they have yet to do? The formula goes something like this: one part token acknowledgment of the good news to three parts trashing government for what they have yet to do. Guess which part of our message is heard and remembered? Whatever happened to thank you?
Granted many of us are impatient and have been advocating for a long time. But we'll wait even longer if we don't stop and provide a whole hearted, unqualified thank you when something good has happened. The currency of politicians is political credit. If they 'spend' some of their credit on our issue, surely we can give them something to put back in their political piggy bank. Otherwise they have no incentive to address our other proposals. Besides no one likes to be criticized particularly if they have done their best to respond.
Politicians aren't stupid. They know our other issues are outstanding. They don't expect us to go away. Like the rest of us they wouldn't mind a thank you when they have done a good job.
Successful advocates know this. Civility makes common sense and is good manners, something our parents taught us. Next time you write a press release or respond to a positive announcement from government, double check to make sure you are not thwarting your ultimate objectives and ruining what could be the start of a constructive relationship.
For examples of good press releases from community groups see the Canadian Council on Disabilities http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/press/ and Canadian Association for Community Living's http://www.cacl.ca/english/index.asp recent response to Canada ratifying the UN Convention on Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities.