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Summary of ANR Advocacy and Strategic Communications Task Force Report

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR IMPLEMENTATION AND OPERATION OF A SUSTAINABLE, ON-GOING GRASSROOTS ADVOCACY PROGRAM FOR ANR

Specific goals of the proposed ANR Advocacy and Strategic Communications Program, as articulated by Vice President Dan Dooley, are:
 
v      To increase visibility of the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR), its programs and people with elected officials and other key external and internal audiences through implementation of coordinated advocacy and communications strategies that clearly shows where ANR and the University of California are making a difference in the lives and livelihoods of Californians.
 
v      To expand state, federal, local and private funding (over the next 3 to 5 years) for mission-related research and public service programs of ANR including, but not limited to, the Agriculture Experiment Station (AES), Cooperative Extension (CE), Statewide Special Programs (SSP), and Research & Extension Centers (REC).
 
v      To enhance coordination with UC Office of the President (UCOP) and systemwide advocacy efforts in order to identify and expand opportunities to integrate broad UC priorities into ANR advocacy efforts and build public support for campus-based programs and initiatives consistent with the research, public service and teaching mission of the University of California.
 
The ANR Advocacy and Strategic Communications Task Force made several recommendations in its June 2008 report to meet these program goals, including:
 
v      Launch an ANR Advocacy and Strategic Communications Program that capitalizes on the Division’s historical grassroots connections in ever county and direct, people-to-people contacts with a broad cross-section of Californians.
 
v      Any ANR advocacy and public education program should be closely coordinated with other UC systemwide and campus-based advocacy efforts and messaging campaigns, but clearly branded as representing the Division, its programs and its people.
 
v      Important to success is actively engaging county- and campus-based ANR academics and staff, as well as external stakeholders from agriculture, natural resources, environmental, nutrition, youth and families and other important “ANR communities,” in a coordinated, on-going program with clearly defined goals and outcomes.
 
v      The ANR Advocacy and Strategic Communications Program should be developed in stages, with resources initially focused on engaging, educating and influencing key elected officials and other high visibility decision makers (external and internal to UC).
 
v      ANR should take advantage of its unique ability to engage elected officials across the state in their district offices in order to deliver effective messages through local communities and local audiences about the importance and value of state, federal, local and private investment in UC research, extension and education.
 
v      Teams of volunteer advocates and ANR employees should make a minimum of two “in-person” contacts per year with key elected officials and other high visibility decision makers, preferably through individual meetings in district offices and town hall forums.
 
v      Primary objectives for “in-person” contacts are to build support through listening to what key decision makers perceive as their needs, committing to addressing issues that match ANR mission, expertise and capacity, and delivering messages and testimonials about how ANR and the University make a real difference in people’s lives.
 
v      The Task Force noted that a successful and sustainable effort in advocacy and strategic communications requires a commitment to provide sufficient staff support and an adequate budget.
 
The Task Force made the following recommendations, accepted by Vice President Dooley, regarding implementation of the ANR Advocacy and Strategic Communications Program:
 
v      The Vice President should appoint an ANR Advocacy and Strategic Communications Policy Advisory Council to set program goals, identify key elected officials and other high visibility decision makers to focus on, help recruit volunteer advocates, review and approve potential messages and promotional materials, and ensure coordination with other UC systemwide and campus-based advocacy efforts.
 
v      Messages regarding the value and benefits of ANR, its programs and its people should be thoroughly tested for effectiveness before being used externally.
 
v      To maximize the opportunity to achieve increased support for UC in general, as well as for ANR specifically, messages should build upon and be integrated with UC systemwide and campus advocacy campaigns and messages whenever possible.
 
v      ANR employees involved in advocacy and strategic communications efforts should have access to regular training to assist them in honing message delivery and other advocacy skills – ANR should take advantage of new technologies to provide live and on-demand training sessions over the Internet to maximize participation and reduce costs.
 
v      Use of the Internet and other distance education technologies should be employed to communicate more effectively with volunteer, grassroots advocates and to ensure that they have a clear understanding of ANR, its programs and people, message content and UC and ANR priorities and objectives.
 
v      While not every interaction or “in-person” contact by an ANR employee or volunteer advocate requires a report, these contacts will often generate important insights, additional questions or specific requests – an easy and efficient mechanism for receiving and following-up on feedback is crucial to a successful program.
 
v      Advocacy and Development are complementary and ANR should look to build long-term relationships with volunteer advocates that may result in increased giving, as well as educating employees on ANR development guidelines and opportunities.
 
Vice President Dooley also supports the appointment of a Director for ANR Advocacy and Strategic Communications to:
 
v      Provide day-to-day leadership, under the supervision of the Executive Director for Governmental and External Relations, for implementation of the ANR Advocacy and Strategic Communications Initiative.
 
v      Be responsible for information sharing about the program across ANR, UC and external stakeholder communities; completing needs assessments and creating, testing and refining messages for outreach campaigns; coordinating the implementation of the advocacy and strategic communications program; and, advising the Vice President and the Policy Advisory Council on program goals, outcomes and needs.
 
The Task Force recommended that the program be regularly monitored and noted that success would be achieved if measureable outcomes included heightened awareness of ANR and UC by elected officials and other influential decision makers – “who we are, what we do, how we help them, how they can help us” – and with an increase in permanent and temporary funding for Division programs by 2012, or four years from launch.
 
Prepared by Steven P. Nation, Executive Director, ANR Governmental and External Relations, UC Office of the President, Oakland, CA (January 2009)

 

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