Grassroots Legislative Advocacy Training: Power Mapping

Grassroots Legislative Advocacy Training: Power Mapping

Articles, Blog , , , , , , , , , , 1 Comment

All right. So, you have now picked which
legislator you want to target and the next step: you’re going to now map the
power relationships between you and your legislator. And this power map is going
to form the basis for developing a legislative campaign to win them over. A
quick note on logistics, we provided you with a blank power map that you can
download and fill out with pen, if you like, but the best way to do this is to
get together your core activists and to fill out the power map using sticky
notes in a blank wall. And we’ll explain shortly why this is a much better way to
do it. Now to fill out your power map, you want to create a sticky note for every
single individual or organization who might influence your legislator on this
issue; that’s whether they’re going to oppose it or whether they might support
it. Now it can sometimes be hard, just off
the top of your head, to think of all of the players involved, so what I would
suggest is: first, obviously, create a sticking up for your target.Create a
sticking note for your own organization and your, sort of, core allies, and move
out to any potential allies who you think might support you. From there, you
want to think about who is likely to oppose this bill – who’s going to oppose
this legislation and lobby against you – and then, you also want to start thinking
about who are the closest allies around your legislator. And this can be where
it’s really helpful to have some sort of a political insider — not only having
crusty activists around the table — someone who knows the political scene
immediately surrounding the legislator who you’re targeting. Another good idea
is to look up the full list of donors to the legislator you’re targeting, which
is all public information. You can look it up, for example, on Open Secrets. And to just browse through the list and see if you spot any potential allies, either
organizations or individuals, and also whether you see any folks from the other
side – from the healthcare industry, for example – who you’re going to have to
contend with. Now that you have sticky notes for all
of the players involved, you want to place them on the map according to their
level of support or opposition to single-payer health care and also how
much power or influence they potentially have over the legislator on this
particular issue. So, the more supportive they are, the
further to the left you want to put them. If they’re strongly opposed, you
want to put them all the way on the right. If they’re neutral, stick them
right in the middle, and then for folks who are like really in the inner circle
of this legislator, you want to put them at the top of the power map. And if they
are way way on the outside, then you want to put them at the bottom of the power
map. Now, to show you how this works, I’m going to introduce a case study from the campaign that I was involved with back
between 2006 and 2009 to get then representative Ed Markey on board HR 676. Now, we’re going to follow this case study from power mapping, all the way
through planning the campaign, through implementation of the campaign, just to
show you how this can work all the way through the process.
Now, this campaign was being planned primarily by the group I was involved
with, MassCare, as well as, the PHP chapter in Massachusetts, and
Massachusetts Jobs with Justice. You can see we’re on the power map far to the
left, but all of us are sort of outsider groups which can tend to happen with
single issue organizations. So we’re a little bit lower on the power map, although all
of us did have activists in Ed Markey’s district so we weren’t completely
without power. However, we had some close allies who were much closer to
representative Markey and who had good relationships with him; this includes the
Mass Nurses Association, an IBW local in the district, an IUE local in
district, and an SEIU local in district that represented social workers. All of
them had a significant number of members in Rep. Markey’s districts, as well as, a
long-term relationship with the representative. On the other side of the
power map, we obviously have hospitals, we have pharmaceutical companies, and we
have the health insurance industry – all very likely to be opposed to
single-payer healthcare. Now, when it came to co-sponsorship, we didn’t expect that
pharma or the health insurers were going to play a significant role in
opposing us, which is different than if the bill was actually being
voted on in Congress, but we worried a little bit about these two for-profit
hospitals in the districts who Rep. Markey was very close to. We also placed
a couple of neutral organizations on the map, including the Mass Medical Society
which actually had been opposed to single-payer, but we had a number of
doctors spend decades essentially getting them to agree not to oppose
single-payer healthcare. So they were taken out of the picture and then an
advocacy group called Health Care for All that was fairly powerful, but on the
issue of single-payer was neither going to oppose nor support it. Now depending on the district, you may have many more or far
fewer players on the map, but once you have them all there, it’s time to step
back for a minute and assess whether you think, given your current allies on the
map, you’ll have the power to move your legislator if all of your allies are
fully activated. This is a subjective judgment call to some extent, so there’s no way I can tell you exactly
how to make the assessment. But, in general, if your power map looks like a
rising hill with all the players clumped in the lower left corner and the middle
and then in the upper right corner, you probably do not have the power and
leverage that you’re going to need to get your legislator on board just
because your opponents have so much more leverage than you do. On the other hand,
if your power map looks like a declining hill with a lot of players lumped in the
upper left corner and in the middle and then in the lower right corner, this
means you were an excellent shape to move your legislator because it means
you have a lot of allies who can potentially influence the legislator
and that your opponents are not in positions of power. Now, in the case of
our case study with Ed Markey, we had a fairly flat map; we had a lot of players
in the middle at both ends, but we felt like we’re in good position because we
had so many organizations clumped up on that far left side, meaning there were
strong single payer supporters, and many of them had a degree of leverage and
influence over the legislator. So if, like us, you feel like you’re in a
position to win, to actually move your legislator, you basically want to circle
everyone and every organization on the left side of that map. And that’s who
you’re going to reach out to to get on board your campaign at the very outset. If, on the other hand, you feel like
you’re probably not yet in a position to move your legislator, this means you’re
going to have to enter a longer term movement building phase. But this power
map is still going to be really helpful for that phase. To get into a position to win, you
essentially need to move the map so that you have more power than your opponents. And there are two ways you can do this. Now, this is usually what we call
outreach work; you do this through coalition building: trying to get
organizations and unions to become more and more supportive, and often through
internal organizing, so you’ll have to work with activists within larger
institutions to make them more and more supportive and to pull them over the
left side of the map. And these are ideally groups who are already in
positions of leverage and power. Now, the other more transformational form of organizing is where you move your own organization
vertically up the map, that is, you’re essentially gaining power. Now, this is
done through base building – bringing more individuals into your organizations,
getting more folks active – but it can also be done through leadership
development – just working with the supporters you have and getting them
more and more active. Developing just four or five new leaders
in a legislative district in your organization can be a game-changer for
whether you can move that legislator or not. Now, if you’re in this phase where
you have to do longer term movement building, this doesn’t mean that you
can’t try and move your legislator because sometimes running a legislative
campaign can be a good way to do coalition building, to do outreach, to do
leadership development. But you just have to be clear about what your primary
goals are if you’re doing that. So now we’re going to talk about how to
actually run your legislative campaign.

One thought on “Grassroots Legislative Advocacy Training: Power Mapping

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *