May 16 Advocacy Day Panel to Focus on Local Impact

A fist on an orange background along with the words Be an Advocate

Advocacy can take place at many different levels, from local councils all the way up to the U.S. Senate. The first step in any advocacy effort is to identify who makes the decisions on the issue you’re trying to address. For example, calling your representative in Congress probably won’t help you get a new streetlamp installed on the corner of your block. Many of the policy decisions that affect you the most on a daily basis are made by local leaders in your own community—some of whom might even be your neighbors. That type of local advocacy is the focus of the Council’s 2024 Advocacy Day, taking place Thursday, May 16 from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Advocacy Day will be a virtual event once again this year, with participants meeting via Zoom. This year’s edition will feature a panel of three local advocates from around the state discussing their efforts to promote change in their community. “They’ll share how they started getting involved and what they’re learning along the way,” says Executive Director Denise Jess. “Each of these individuals has found a different pathway to their advocacy work and are at differing places along the journey.”

Denise will moderate the panel discussion and share some specific advocacy opportunities. Our goal is to inspire participants to take the next step in their own advocacy, whether they are experienced activists or just getting their feet wet.

These are our Advocacy Day panelists:

  • Liz Fryseth of La Crosse has been advocating at the local level for many years on guide dog access, pedestrian safety and emergency preparedness.
  • Brent Goodman of Rhinelander is a Council board member who facilitates a vision loss support group and is newer to advocacy.
  • Wendi Dwyer of Madison is a long-time advocate though newer to advocating in the blind and low vision community on issues such as pedestrian safety and guide dog access.

“Advocacy on the local level has the benefit of helping everyone in the community,” says Denise. “When you do something that makes your community a better place, there’s a ripple effect. We want to help people transform their knowledge into action.”

A major goal of Advocacy Day is to help participants understand that almost anyone can be a successful advocate, but you need to do your homework to be effective. “Local advocacy requires local people who first need to understand what’s possible,” Denise says. “Good advocates know how to bring their stories forward, but they must also understand the process for their advocacy to have the biggest punch.”

In addition to knowing how policy changes are made, some basic people skills also make a big difference. “Our panelists will demonstrate the kind of nuance and diplomacy that’s in alignment with the way the Council does advocacy,” Denise adds.

Denise stresses that the skills and strategies these advocates are using at the local level also apply when working with state legislators and other policymakers.

“So often we hear from people that they are nervous to speak with elected officials or find the process daunting,” Denise says. “As a seasoned advocate, I can say the best way to work through that nervousness is to just start doing it, so that the prospect of advocating doesn’t loom too large in your mind and you get practice in building strong skills.”

Even though Denise has polished her own advocacy techniques over years of practice, she says she still finds new ways to be effective. “Every time I meet with a local official, legislator, state agency leader, or the Governor or his staff, I learn something that helps me strengthen my approach and fine tune my skills. It is always a dynamic learning process.”

You can find the details and register for Advocacy Day on our website.

Share this post