Be the voice. Take action. Together.
Advocacy in Motion is how WRAAA makes aging its business
June 14, 2016
By Fatima Perkins, Director of Community Outreach & Advocacy
Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging
At the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging (PSA 10A) annual meeting held in April, we shared with the audience of 475 information about our new initiative Advocacy in Motion (AIM). We all know that advocacy is one of the many things that we do on a daily basis for older adults and persons with disabilities. As the landscape of our industry changes, we need to keep abreast and on the forefront with our advocacy efforts. If advocacy is low on your "to do" list, please move it up a few notches and reap the rewards!
Last year, it became apparent to our agency that we needed to enhance our advocacy efforts. Built on years of successful public policy endeavors and a review of best practices in the area of advocacy, we knew as an agency we could employ additional efforts to give voice to the concerns of the persons that we serve. A star was born - AIM.
We have all heard that it is important to help give voice to the issues impacting the most vulnerable of the community. However, we ourselves may need a little nudge to get these efforts going. It behooves our network to collaborate on local, state and national levels to ensure the needs of the most vulnerable are being met.
How do we make aging our business? Along with all the wonderful and impactful things Area Agencies do, WRAAA makes aging our business by advocating for those who need a voice. We now use AIM as one of our many advocacy tools.
Once out of its planning phase, AIM has built momentum in Northeast Ohio. For our colleagues and other interested parties here is a quick briefing on AIM. We hope what we can be an inspiration and model for others. To date, WRAAA has trained almost 100 volunteers in Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties. Many WRAAA staff, Advisory Council and Board of Trustees members have also received the training. Each county now has an AIM team ready for action. This has been a phenomenal task. We are thankful to have an advocacy icon in our community, The Center for Community Solutions, who has partnered with us to conduct AIM trainings.
What is AIM? Advocacy in Motion (AIM) operates under the auspice of the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging (WRAAA). It is a group that consists of consumers, advocates, providers and professional organizations. AIM works with other key community stakeholders to collectively enhance our voice on policy issues at local, state and national levels.
The mission of AIM is to serve as an advocate for older adults and individuals with disabilities addressing their needs, issues and concerns through civic engagement. It is our belief that the exchange of information, resources, and tools will help develop our region's volunteer capacity to participate in advocacy related activities.
What are the goals of AIM?
- Sustain a coalition of consumer advocates through collaborative efforts and partnerships with community stakeholders.
- Foster learning about the legislative process, pending legislation, and how to become an effective advocate.
- Formulate advocacy action plans to influence public policy.
- Educate/inform public officials and other groups regarding the needs, issues and concerns about older adults and/or adults with disabilities at the federal, state and local levels.
- Increase awareness of the political and economic power of the older adults and adults with disabilities.
- Develop relationships with elected public officials and their aids regarding identified advocacy issues.
Over the course of a year, Dell Whitaker, Chief Operations Officer and Cyndi Rossi, Legislative Liaison of WRAAA have championed AIM throughout Northeast Ohio. This dynamic duo has conducted several trainings. The momentum continues to grow in our region and we are delighted that the next AIM training will include volunteers from the disability community.
The four-hour AIM training module includes information about population demographics, defining advocacy vs lobbying, successful advocacy methods, and building relationships with community leaders, and protocol for communicating with letters, telephone calls, visits and social media. Much, much more is included. The training often includes lunch with a legislator or public leader that many volunteers believe is the highlight of the training. Given the opportunity to meet a legislator, many of the volunteers rehearse their newly learned strategies with their elected official. Of course, every great effort requires a handbook. The AIM handbook is a template of the training and additional resources for successful advocacy endeavors.
Our AIM journey has been very fulfilling. We have learned so much about our region. We have also garnered the support for advocacy efforts of very energetic and passionate individuals who are willing to be the voice for themselves and others.
Are you interested in learning how to get AIM started in your community or receiving the AIM guidebook? Call Dell Whitaker at (216) 621-0303, ext. 1278, or email AIM@PSA10A.org.
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