What is the year-round cycle of advocacy?
The year-round cycle of advocacy describes all of the opportunities that we as advocates and organizers have during the year to make an impact on issues that we care about. Too often, folks feel that the only way that they can participate in government is to vote. While voting is definitely important, there are many other ways to participate in government that can make your vote even more powerful.
Let’s consider a scenario. You and a few of your neighbors meet with your lawmaker during the legislative session because you want them to vote yes on a certain bill related to homelessness. During the meeting, you share with your lawmaker that you are constituents in their district and that you are a part of a group of around 100 people who meet regularly to talk about homelessness in the community. When you ask the lawmaker to vote yes on the bill, they know that there are around 100 voters in their district who are organized, paying attention to how they vote, and ready to hold lawmakers accountable to their actions at the polls. Remember, lawmakers want and need your vote, and it’s important that they hear from the community. In this case, getting involved in the cycle of advocacy looks like leveraging your vote in any way that you can.
Elements of the Cycle of Advocacy
As you think about how to plug into the cycle of advocacy, it’s important to think about what kinds of participation will be strategic and effective and what timing makes the most sense. Here are some short descriptions of each of the elements or time periods of the cycle of advocacy and some examples of how you can get involved during that time.
The legislative session is arguably one of the most crucial times for advocacy. This is the time that state lawmakers go to Olympia to set new laws, change laws, and set the state budget. Washington state operates in a two-year cycle. On odd-numbered years, the legislature meets for 105 days, and on even-numbered years it meets for 60 days. During each legislative session, there are several cutoffs and deadlines that represent crucial times for advocates to push lawmakers to take action on bills and budgets. Advocacy organizations like the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance pay close attention to this whole process and often call on advocates when your voices are most needed in Olympia.
Here’s a link to the Washington state legislature’s page to learn a little bit more about how the legislative session works.
Here’s a PDF that walks through the process of how a bill becomes a law.
Here’s a link where you can sign up for Action Alerts from the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, which will notify you when your voice is needed most in Olympia.
As many seasoned advocates will tell you, it can be a challenge to get any face time with your lawmaker during the legislative session. Often times, meetings with lawmakers while they are in Olympia can be fairly short because of busy schedules. So, while it is definitely important to meet with your lawmaker and send them messages during session, it is also important to meet with them when they’re not in session, during the interim. Often times, these meetings will take place in your district (click here to find out which district you live in and who represents you!). You might be able to get more time on the calendar with your lawmaker, which means that you have the opportunity to discuss the issues more deeply and still make robust asks for the upcoming session.
Pro-tip: Remember that lawmakers want and need your vote! If you are meeting with a lawmaker in the interim and they happen to be up for election that year, don’t hesitate to mention that you are a voter and will be voting with housing and homelessness issues in mind during the upcoming election.
Election Season: Voter Registration and Mobilization
Ah, election season. The time of the year where we all get bombarded.
During election season, it is important that we rally around candidates and help them win. There are many ways to get involved during campaign season:
- If you can, register to vote here: click me!
- Print and fill out this from
- Send to your county’s office (addresses listed on second page of file)
- Contact the Washington Low Income Housing to find volunteer opportunities
- Phone banking
- Door knocking
- Educate yourself on all candidates by using this website:
How can you get involved?
Advocacy can look a lot of different ways. Below are a few examples of how you can get involved!
• Join the Resident Action Project!
• Participate in an advocacy training
• Attend Housing And Homelessness Advocacy Day
• Meet with your lawmakers
• Register your friends, family, and neighbors to vote
• Sign up for Action Alerts from an advocacy organization
• Write a letter to the editor
• Tweet! Post on Facebook! Insta-advocacy!
• Make art for advocacy
…. and many other things! The most important part is raising your voice about the issues that you care about.