In today’s polarized day-and-age, shaping policy may seem like a futile, uphill battle. However, it is during times like these that reshaping policy is more important than ever before. Challenging times is no excuse for simply giving up—tenacity and persistence is more important than ever. How does shaping policy look like in times of uncertainty? When dealing with vast communities with varied interests, presenting a coherent, direct message about the exact problem to solve goes a long way for rallying people together.
Additionally, assembling colleagues who have a similar vision into a core team is critical for bringing steam to a movement. Finally, the courage to engage policymakers and interested parties from all walks of life is essential for bringing about change to regulations, laws, and policies on issues.
The Story of FARE
Consider Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), the leading food allergy patient advocacy organization in the country. Every year, food allergies affect more than 32 million Americans, including 5 million children, and access and affordability to solutions and treatments is still a challenge. FARE worked with a coalition of partners and advocates, ranging from the corporate realm to the non-profit space, to engage governmental and regulatory agencies to change policy.
Earlier in 2020, 150 food allergy advocates joined the organization on Capitol Hill to push for plain labeling for sesame and increased federal funding for effective food allergy treatment research. That advocacy effort supported pushing for more co-sponsors to the House of Representatives bill, the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education & Research (FASTER) Act. The movement continues, even after the bill was voted out.
New Platforms, New Opportunities
Championing and advocating for change is difficult in times of uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions on policymaking and governance presents a layer of difficulty in reaching out face-to-face with those in power. Persistence and resilience are important. Just because it is more difficult to engage with policymakers in-person does not mean that advocacy must come to a stop.
In fact, harnessing new platforms, particularly virtual platforms (where people have become more and more comfortable using), presents new opportunities to engage even more people than before. Times change, but the fight for shaping policy does not.