“Lobbying, and virtual lobbying, is one of the best ways to get your voice heard,” stated Helena Aytenfisu, MCR’s director of Legislative Affairs. Indeed, Helena Aytenfisu and Maeve Sanford- Kelly’s Virtual Lobbying Workshop, held on August 1 as a part of MCR’s Weekend Summer Workshops, left participants equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to make their voices heard.
Participants, some of whom attended the workshop because it “seemed like an interesting and engaging way to learn more about local legislative affairs,” as explained by Queen Balina, a Junior at Churchill High School, ranging from ages 12 to 74, truly exemplifying the impact and appeal of lobbying.
Beginning the workshop with introductions, a synopsis of what lobbying is, and a breakdown of the five key aspects of lobbying, the presenters showed participants from the onset that “there was tangible action they could take on the issues they care about,”- one of Helena’s main goals of the workshop.
After mentioning the 5 key lobbying steps- research, identify an ask, schedule a meeting, lobby, and follow up- each step was examined in depth with the aid of slides (attached below) and explanations. Veteran lobbyists themselves, Helena and Maeve, reassured participants that policy-makers want to hear from their constituents and are marveled by students’ passion and drive. “I gained a lot of knowledge because the presenters had experience with it,” said Elon Atlaw, a Junior at Northwood High School.
Next, the presenters explained that while virtual lobbying may feel impersonal, its required steps are essentially the same as in-person lobbying, and not to get discouraged. Subsequently, the notion of having power in numbers was emphasized when Helena and Maeve explained that the bigger the lobbying group, the more likely legislatures are to meet with you, and followed this by giving tips on how to recruit volunteers using social media and graphics.
After opening up the floor to Q&A, the presenters commenced the breakout session activity, a huge hit- Elon Atlaw explained “I loved the breakout session because I was able to apply what I learned and get feedback from my fellow MCR members” while Queen Balina stated, “the part I enjoyed most was drafting example speeches and hearing my fellow students- some even younger than me- speak passionately about a topic.” Participants were put into breakout rooms on zoom, looked at a sample resolution, and drafted a speech to policymakers according to what was taught in the presentation; thank the policy-makers for their time, introduce the bill/resolution, introduce the ask, tie in a personal story/ why it matters to you, reiterate the ask, and finally thank them again. Participants had a few minutes to craft their speech, share with their breakout rooms, and would later have the opportunity to share it with the big group.
The sample resolution, which called for the reinstatement of strawberry milk to MCPS, allowed participants to practice lobbying skills while tuning in to their creativity. “I was really glad to see that people engaged with the breakout room activity when we shared out at the end,” said Helena. One participant, a student from Howard County, came up with a story that had everyone in the big group laughing and persuaded at the same time, claiming that strawberry milk came from pink cows and that his family, long-time pink cow farmers, were devastatingly struck by the ban on strawberry milk in schools.
Queen Balina explained, “I’ve attended all the workshops so far, and this one was definitely educational and worth my time.” A great success, participants left the workshop inspired and ready to lobby.
Written by Abby Leibowitz
Published by PR Department