The maxim that all politics is local will take on a new meaning in Trumpland. He is a leader with zero interest in details and his staff will spend four years fighting among themselves, all while Congress attempts to enact an agenda focused on GOP 101 (Tax Cuts, etc). In this environment, how can you win? And how can you use the upcoming holidays to prepare yourself and your teams?
Fight and Win Locally: For non-profits and philanthropies, this first means identifying early “wins” to expand on what you’ve accomplished in the last eight years as you prepare for a different policy environment. Then it means pivoting to active defense of what matters most while continuing to relentlessly engage decision-makers on why your position is best for them. From 2000-2008, advocates in California fought and changed policies to provide voluntary, universal preschool at the local level and built towards statewide policy using policy, advocacy and local community wins in spite of a hostile presidency. How can you do the same?
Treasure Old Friends and Make New Ones: Congress and presidencies really only listen when the volume gets loud – as in, “airplane flying over your head” loud. With this in mind, think about how you can mobilize the loudest audience possible, especially those in unlikely places. This might mean elected officials at the local level, even from other parties, who value what you are doing. This may also mean diversifying your coalition to include new voices. Just last week, major Jewish-American and Muslim-American groups announced they would be collaborating more intensely given the current political environment, and this work builds on similar local efforts around the country. Who are your unlikely allies that can open doors for you?
Do Things Not Because they are Easy, but Because They are Hard (Thx JFK!): Grassroots work is the hardest work in public policy. It requires constant engagement and implementation, but it can pay big dividends. With Obamacare in the sights of the incoming congress, consider this: There are approximately 46,000 people in each congressional district who will lose care (20 million people / 435 districts). Any congressional office getting 46,000 phone calls and handwritten notes will notice. If this issue is important to you, get started. If this isn’t your issue, how can you dramatically expand your network of support in the next 6 months? What would it take?
Bonus: Take a Break: Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman in their new book The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit urge all us to take a real rest to give our minds a chance to rest and recharge. It has been a stressful election and an even more stressful post-election period. The authors suggest (1) daily breaks, (2) technology breaks, and (3) real vacations with digital detoxing as you seek to recharge for the fights ahead. Maybe the weeks and months ahead can be a moment to recharge your personal and spiritual batteries for the long fight ahead.