Friends in PYM engaged with FCNL in many different ways in 2015, from our delegation that participated in discernment at FCNL’s Annual Meeting in November and the legislative actions many Friends took in response to FCNL emails to Chico Friend Megan Fisher’s participation in the year-long Advocacy Corps and the Advocacy Team formed by Friends in Santa Cruz meeting.
“Pivot2Peace” was the theme of FCNL’s Annual Meeting, Nov. 12-15, 2015, at a new venue, nearer Capitol Hill and FCNL’s office. Meeting spaces there were larger, and the location was much more convenient.
An obvious opportunity to bring FCNL supporters to lobby their Senators and Representatives, the annual meeting begins with the Quaker Public Policy Institute (QPPI). FCNL really knows how to teach lobbying skills for impact and success!
The players: FCNL Executive Secretary Diane Randall
Speakers from the US Institute for Peace; Bureau for Conflict and Stabilization Operations, State Dept.; Genocide Prevention Program, Geo. Mason U.; Quaker UN Office; Central African Republic trauma healing project; Kenyan Human Rights Group (Haki Africa); Ed Snyder
Staff includes 17 registered lobbyists; a strong Field staff, a growing Young Adult program funded by a Capital Campaign, Young Fellows (interns), and many more.
General Committee – 178 Quakers from YMs of all branches of Quakerism; provides oversight and stewardship, establishes policy and priorities for work with each Congressional session [Factoid: each Congress lasts 2 years after House elections occur], convenes at Annual Meeting.
Peacebuilding: the theme for 2015
The theme changes for each annual session to provide focus for the plenary speakers and lobbying topics. (Q: If war is not the answer, what is? A: Pivot2Peace.)
Lobbying – learning and doing:
QPPI provides the background and inspiration for lobbying on a single current legislative issue that is likely to be acted on very soon by Congress. We heard from experts in conflict prevention and practical de-escalation of violence from the US Institute for Peace and several African conflict-resolution projects. Training for lobbying included practicing presentations with others from the same state or region. Visits to Congressional offices, follow-up, and feedback to FCNL are always well-planned by staff, with some local advance work to schedule visits.
It is an amazing and valuable experience to be part of professionally organized lobbying. First, FCNL sets up the
Focus: a pragmatically chosen current opportunity for bipartisan support. A single specific “ASK” made by many constituents from all over the country in a short period of time makes a great impact on Congress.
Logistics: arrangements – the Who, When, Where — assigned roles for each member of a state delegation, background material to leave behind to reinforce the message, and different forms to prepare, track our activities, and report results back to FCNL.
Training: What works best is a personal story with emotional impact told by a constituent. Prior to our visits, we prepared — with coaching and practice — in telling our stories to other team members. Rehearsing the points to cover improved our ultimate presentations’ effectiveness.
Visits to members of Congress, step-by-step instructions:
- Introductions of the group’s members,
- Thanks for the legislator’s awareness of FCNL’s work,
- Inquiring about the legislator’s interests/issues,
- Telling our individual stories about our focus issue,
- What we are asking for, specifically related to an upcoming bill or amendment,
Follow up: material to leave behind, report on visit to FCNL, plan next contact with legislator back home in district office.
The 2015 “ask” was to make the inter-agency Atrocities Prevention Board permanent (Sen. Ben Cardin’s bill, S.2551); 350 constituent lobbying visits happened during the two days of QPPI! When the legislation was introduced in early 2016, among the sponsors were several Republican Senators who specifically said they were cosponsoring the bill because of the engagement of Friends in their states.
Meeting with a Concern for Business
After QPPI, the annual meeting of the General Committee and supporters of FCNL takes place, covering the past year’s achievements and progress. 2015 saw advances regarding
- Iran: diplomacy works,
- Climate: opening bipartisan dialog,
- Advocacy in Washington – expanded opportunities,
- Growing and sustaining grassroots organizers in local communities,
- Reducing mass incarceration,
- Limiting the Pentagon budget and nuclear weapons,
- Peacebuilding within the US government,
- De-militarizing US police forces.
Ongoing Work at FCNL, Status and Updates
- Staff changes, especially hearing from the incoming and outgoing interns: introductions and reports on their experiences during their year in Washington;
- Advocacy Teams: regional networks of citizen activists doing grassroots lobbying in district offices;
- Capital Campaign programs:
- Quaker Welcome Center: meeting place on Capitol Hill plus a residence in 205 C St. next to the FCNL office;
- Friend in Washington program: short-term residence for experienced Quakers; possibilities for various projects;
- Young Adult Advocacy Corps summer intensive program and Spring Lobby Day;
- FCNL on the Road events across the US in 2016 and 2017 (will be at Friends House, Santa Rosa, in Feb. 2017).
- Futures Planning process.
GC Business (budget, etc.)
Setting or revising priorities for work during the new session of Congress starting in January. Every odd-numbered year priorities for the newly elected Congress are set during Annual Meeting, and specific priorities for staff focus are determined annually by input from monthly meetings across the country.
Workshops on current topics to educate attenders and give them the opportunity to ask questions:
- Emerging issues,
- Understanding the budget,
- Capital Campaign,
- Lobby Corps outside of Washington.
Congressional offices tell FCNL staff that messages to Congress are a key part of our democratic process. Friends and other like-minded folk in California sent thousands of messages to Congress in response to alerts from FCNL, helping to encourage our lawmakers to advance the world we seek.
Young Friend Megan Fisher from Chico Friends meetings completed a very successful term as a member of the first class of 18 Advocacy Corps organizers focused on encouraging others to lobby Congress on climate change. As part of her activities, Megan organized four other young Friends to attend FCNL’s Annual Spring Lobby Weekend in March of 2016. FCNL paid half the cost of their travel to Washington, DC with the other half covered by the Bob Vogel Youth Programs Endowment Fund of PYM.
Several Friends in Santa Cruz Monthly Meeting helped to welcome FCNL Advocacy Team organizer Maiya Zwerling to their area to help launch an Advocacy Team – a year-long service of FCNL that provides training in deep advocacy to Friends and other like-minded folk around the country.
Submitted by Amy Southwick, 6/16/2016
Attachments to printed report:
- Schedule for speakers and QPPI
- “What we achieve together”
- Legislation summary: Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act
- FCNL Priorities and Lobbying Programs