Cutting Your Issue – Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (16)

One of the first strategic decisions to make when advancing your cause is to 'cut your issue'. 

Cutting an issue means being specific about what you will ask Government to do or what you want to see changed.  There are lots of reasons for doing so. The clearer you are about the change you want, the greater the chance of enlisting supporters and allies. The more precise you are, the harder it is for the system to delay, ignore, or obfuscate. And the easier it is to measure results.  For example, if you are concerned about poverty asking a Government to end poverty in Africa makes it easier for them to agree in principle but not necessarily to do anything different or new.  Advocating for a principle can be hard enough but it doesn't usually lead to structural change on its own. 

'Cutting an issue' means taking a bite sized chunk of your larger concern and making it the issue you campaign and advocate for.  A great example stems back to the late 1700's when twelve determined abolitionists began to meet in London.  While they were against slavery in all its forms, they made a strategic decision to devote all their efforts to ending the slave trade.   They recognized they couldn't undo centuries of slavery overnight.  Remember at that time three quarters of the world experienced some form of slavery or indenture. Slavery was the norm in the same way the gap between rich and poor nations is today, or fossil fuel is the dominant source of energy for transportation around the world. 

The abolitionists decided to start by interrupting the supply and cutting off the source of slavery  – that is ending the slave trade.  It took them over 20 years and once that was achieved they began to support efforts in other countries.  Eventually their focus became the emancipation of all people who were slaves. In retrospect it is hard to imagine it could have been done in any other way.  Another way to look at cutting an issue is to determine which step(s) you should chisel out of a mountain that enables others to follow and chisel the next set of steps. 

When we began advocating for the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) we had three major objectives: To establish a No One Alone Fund to end isolation and loneliness; to create a pooled investment fund for all special needs trusts and of course to establish a savings plan for people with disabilities and their families. After a year of consultation we were told quite emphatically to choose one.  They were all worth doing but keeping them together risked confusing everyone and unduly complicating our 'ask'.  Besides, we were advised, systems have trouble responding to more than one big ask at a time.  They must juggle other priorities.

It was tough to 'park' two of our pet projects but we chose the Disability Savings Plan because we thought it would prepare the way for the others.  And it has. 

NOTE: For those in the Vancouver area, tomorrow night is the Salon sponsored by former Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan and where I have 7 minutes to make my case for ?  Thanks for all your advice. Do come and hear what all the amazing speakers have to say. 500 tickets have been sold already but there are still over a 100 left. Tickets are just $15.00 and can be ordered online ; by calling 604-684-2787 ; by e-mailing or by showing up at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre.  

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