By Karen Stokes
Advocates and staff from Scaling Wellness in Milwaukee (SWIM) member organizations gathered at St. Joseph Hospital, Monday afternoon for a workshop discussing information and education on advocacy techniques and tactics.
SWIM is a coalition of community groups working to address trauma. It was started by Marquette University President Mike Lovell.
John Meurer, professor of pediatrics and community health, director of the Institute for Health & Equity, Medical College of WI, moderated the Marquette sponsored workshop.
“The mission is to inspire local collaboration to heal trauma and create a resilient community through policy and systems change,” said Meurer.
The purpose of the workshop was to enhance the knowledge, confidence, and activation of SWIM members to participate in effective policy advocacy with government administrators and legislators to benefit vulnerable populations to reduce disparities and advance equity.
A panel of experts in advocacy working in government affairs led the workshop answering questions and sharing experiences.
Members of the panel included, Nathan Berken, director of government relations, Medical College of WI; Jodi Bloch, director of state and local government relations, Children’s Hospital of WI; Moira Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald Consultancy, Milwaukee; Kari Lerch, deputy Ddrector, Community Advocates Public Policy Institute; Kathy Markeland, executive director, WI Assoc of Family and Children’s Agencies and Reggie Newson, vice president and chief advocacy officer, Ascension WI.
“Everyone should know who their elected officials are and should have a relationship with them,” said Fitzgerald. “That’s how you bring empathy and empowerment. That’s how you build trust.”
Newson added, “Understand what problem or issue that the official needs to solve and be able to come up with a proposal and that proposal can align with something you’re passionate about and that you’re advocating for.”
The afternoon continued with small group breakout sessions. Amanda Buchanan, program coordinator, Youth Justice Milwaukee & Urban Underground felt that the information was beneficial.
“I enjoyed the school based mental health break out session. The people in my group were very insightful on this topic and gave me a different perspective,” said Buchanan.
The workshop convened from the breakout groups to discuss Next Step Actions such as inviting policymakers to SWIM Policy Action Team meetings, joining and collaborating with existing coalitions, working with the SWIM Education and Technology teams to mobilize others and following-up with the SWIM research and best practices team and coalitions to find or develop evidence-based policy briefs where needed.