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connecting with the policy environment
Connecting with the Policy Environment

In order to sustain your initiative by integrating it into state or local systems, it is necessary to know about developing or current policies, regulations, and procedures and to seek opportunities to influence or connect your initiative to them. It is important to understand not only how and when policy changes are made and how initiatives are funded, but the priorities and movements that you can influence, how you can address any policy or procedure changes necessary for the sustainability of your initiative, and how you can capitalize on emerging funding streams.

Think broadly and creatively. For example, if chronic absenteeism is a priority in your state, how can you link and embed your school climate initiative to it? Or if you want community mental health providers to offer services in the school system, what needs to change to make that happen so that it is sustainable?

These sections provide information on some growing or established movements to link to, how and when to get involved in the development of legislation and regulations, basic funding streams to consider, and templates and worksheets you can adapt to help organize and track the policy items that are important to you.

You will learn about ways that you can advance your initiative through policies and procedures by understanding the priorities of key players, developing relationships with those who can impact change or generate funding, and keeping abreast of new or emerging issues. Be prepared to engage officials and their staff in discussions on how child development and universal prevention can support their goals. Use your mapping assets work to show them how well current initiatives are working or where there are gaps that need filling to encourage support for your approach.
At the same time you are focusing on particular policies and players at the state or local level, it is necessary to pay attention to what is happening at the other levels of government for there is a dynamic relationship between federal, state and local policies. Policies enacted at the state or federal level can impact local initiatives – whether they are meant to or not.

Staying up-to-date on the ever-changing policy environment of education, health and mental health is crucial. Doing so will help you scope out policy opportunities in your state or locality, and help you identify policy levers in the budget, legislative, and regulatory processes in order to anticipate immediate and long-term next steps. There may also be be opportunities to sustain your initiative through policies, regulations or procedures that are not directly tied to child development, so be willing to think beyond the easily identifiable targets

Use the templates in the Tools and Resources section to organize information and create a plan.

Guiding Questions
  • How will you and your Action Team access information on health, education, and other relevant policies?
    • What networking will you do?
    • At what venues and events can you meet with policymakers and officials?
    • Are there agency staff members or staff that work with officials that can provide you with useful information?
    • Who are your partners that can help promote policy changes? Think about those you typically reach as well as those who have a less obvious connection to your initiative.
  • What policies or procedures do you view as necessary to advance your initiative? How can you influence their adoption?
  • What are the current programs/initiatives in schools, human services organizations, community-based organizations, and health agencies that you may want to link your initiative to?
  • What are some of the broad content issues of concern to your elected officials (governor, legislators, local/city officials, school board)?
  • Who is knowledgeable about the policymaking and budget-setting process or how would you find individuals that are?
  • What policies, both funded and unfunded, might support the sustainability or your approach? Are there interagency initiatives that can be leveraged to shift focus to your work?
Key Actions
  • Understand how policies and procedures are determined in your state, district, or organization.
  • Gather information on current and proposed policies and procedures that could impact your initiative (think broadly) or enlist the help of someone who already has that knowledge.
  • Review the policy and procedure landscape and consider which could impact your initiative, either by advancing or hindering. There are three general actions you will want to consider:
    • Connecting to the policy or procedure as it is,
    • Advocating for change to it by adding or deleting sections, or
    • Fighting it if it will hurt your initiative.
  • Decide who on your Action Team will serve as the main contacts to individuals connected to the policy environment and to specific policy opportunities. If there is no one with experience, consider adding a new member(s) to the team.
  • Create a plan that outlines the team’s activities and each individual’s tasks.
  • Track the progress of bills and initiatives as they are introduced, become law, and regulations are determined.
  • Build relationships with key decision-makers and their staff throughout the process.
    • Be helpful to legislators and staff by giving them fact-based information on your topic that makes their work easier;
    • Invite legislators, executive branch officials, and staff to events that showcase the initiatives you want them to support and, with their permission, document and promote their support;
    • Exercise thoughtfulness and courtesy in your discussions with officials, legislators and staff. Recognize their constraints if such exist and be careful not to burn bridges.


Updated January 2018

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