Why Constituent Engagement?: Our coalition’s decision-making processes are deliberately focused on uplifting policy suggestions that come directly from impacted community members. Our decision-making rubric, which was co-constructed by the staff and Steering Committee, seeks to institutionalize both the relationship we want FBC to have with impacted community members, as well as our commitment to deconstructing the racist policies that continue to prioritize wealth and whiteness at the expense of low-income communities of color.
Constituent Engagement Goals:
One of our major organizational goals is increasing constituent engagement both within FBC, as well as in the larger DC advocacy community. Ultimately Fair Budget Coalition wants to have our annual Budget Report comprised of recommendations that come directly from impacted Black and other communities of color, who have been engaged throughout the process and have clear decision-making power. This will give greater value to the recommendations that FBC makes, and will ensure that directly impacted community members have their voices elevated within conversations where their fate is decided but they are often further marginalized.
These goals will be realized when community members are represented in all stages of advocacy -- from inception of policy asks to lobbying and testifying to community actions. We hope that through involvement within the coalition, our members can have an impact on pushing the larger advocacy community as a whole to be more accountable to the communities we often claim we represent. We seek to shift the power imbalance between white, paid advocates and low-income Black and other people of color whose voices are often excluded or tokenized within these spaces.
Our Models for Constituent Engagement:
Constituent Engagement Program: Bi-monthly meetings will continue to occur where members are able to share information, best practices and skill building on how they engage their constituents. Current members include: Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Miriam's Kitchen, DC Greens, Capitol Hill Group Ministry, Academy of Hope and DC Senior Advisory Coalition. Following the first year of the Constituent Engagement Program and debriefing with each organization that was involved, each organization expressed a desire to build a multi-issue group of constituents, thus came the Constituent Leadership Program.
Constituent Leadership Program: Working with the organizations involved within the Constituent Engagement Program, we begun to convene a cohort of constituents already engaged in advocacy from our CEP organizations. Within the CLP, constituents are able to dive deeper into the budget process, learn tactics and strategy for advocacy and organizing, as well as working as a decision making body within the FBC structure.
As we shift our programmatic work to better align to our rubric, it is more essential for us to support this work through a deeper involvement in constituent engagement. We see this work happening through dual processes of both continuing capacity building on an organizational level, as well as increasing our organizing capacity through supporting this new Constituent Leadership Program. While this program is still a new area for Fair Budget, we hope that the CLP as a key decision making body within the coalition pushed Fair Budget, and the DC advocacy community as a whole to reframe how we hold ourselves accountable to our community stakeholders.