Community driven advocacy leads to more equitable public policy.
After nearly a decade of working towards achieving equitable results for our community, the Foundation for Tacoma Students (FFTS) began, for the first time in 2018, explicitly advocating for public policies. While our work up to that point centered around shifting practices and behaviors through programmatic interventions, we realized that sustainable gains can only be achieved through policy change. These two strategies working in concert – changing practices and shifting policies – are what lead to systems change.
At FFTS, we saw an opportunity to leverage our collective voice as the Graduate Tacoma community-wide movement and advocate for policy shifts that remove barriers to success and improve student outcomes, cradle to career.
In the three years since, we’ve taken positions and testified on several legislative bills, advocating. for the youth and families in Tacoma and Pierce County at the local, regional, state and federal level – keeping our community partnership’s voice, lived experience and expertise at the forefront of every message. We did this through the creation and development of several community networks and coalitions, including: The FFTS Policy Advisory Committee, a small but mighty team of partners who have truly stewarded the development of collective advocacy. The Graduate Tacoma Advocacy Network, a cross-sector advisory table of subject matter experts, passionate community leaders, and policy specialists who have been the decision making body for what FFTS advocates for and why. Finally, and most recently, the Washington State Cradle to Career Advocacy Network, a statewide coalition of backbone intermediaries committed to collective advocacy.
Together, we have filled budget deficits, made technology access a priority for Tacoma-Pierce County students, secured large scale investments for expanded learning partners and modified state legislation to make college access more equitable.
The common thread among all of these victories is community. Centering the voices of those directly impacted by policy changes ensure that our policy wins are not only effective, but equitable and inclusive as well. As we look into the next decade of our work, we will continue to prioritize relationships with community partners at all levels and across sectors to understand needs and perspectives, and ensure that policies are designed, adopted and implemented equitably. We will invite and integrate the experiences and input of impacted communities into all phases of our policy work, because we know that policies created by well-intentioned experts are not good enough if the process doesn’t include the people who will ultimately live the impact.
The policy world is characterized by specialized jargon and opaque processes. As the backbone support to the Graduate Tacoma community-movement, FFTS will focus on building our partners’ capability and capability to engage in policy work and make impactful change.
Together, our voices are amplified and people listen.