Zero to Three links our work as home visitors to public policy outreach in an article titled Building Relationships: Parallels Between Infant Toddler Development and the Public Policy Process. Working with infants, toddlers and their families is all about relationships. Babies are born with a drive to relate to and connect with others, and they continue to develop the social skills necessary to form strong, healthy relationships throughout their lives. Our understanding of relationships and early childhood development can help guide us in various aspects of our lives. Relationship-building is at the core of our work with young children, and it truly lies at the heart of effective policy, advocacy and systems work. That makes those of us in the early childhood community perfectly suited for policy work. As you develop your skills as an advocate, think about these important elements of relationship-building with policymakers:
Relationships are built over time. You should expect to work hard developing and cultivating relationships over the long haul. When you have created a solid foundation of a relationship, it can lead to the policymaker or their staff asking for your input on infant-toddler issues.
Be proactive. Think ahead about the kinds of information that will be useful to your policymakers and reach out before the time-crunch of a vote.
Base the relationship on trust. Be honest and forthcoming about potential controversies.
All relationships are a two-way street. Remember, in addition to asking for their vote or help on a policy issue, you have something to offer the policymaker. You want to be seen as a knowledgeable and trusted resource to them.
Listening is as important as talking. Take the time to hear and understand the perspective of those you are trying to influence. This will help you in addressing any questions or concerns raised.
Do your homework. Spend time learning about your policymakers, just as you would when building a relationship with any person. Also take the time to find out demographics about their district, so you are knowledgeable about their community.
Be gracious and courteous. Make sure policymakers hear about what they have done well, as well as what you are displeased with. Always say thank you. Be comfortable letting others take credit.
Build relationships with all policymakers, regardless of their political affiliation. Everyone has a role to play in supporting infants, toddlers and their families.
The full article is on the Zero To Three webiste.