As a nonprofit, Circulate San Diego relies on the support of our many members and donors. End-of-year giving is a major portion of our fundraising, and we have been asking everyone to lend their support.
Below is an email we sent earlier this week. It describes our model for advocacy, and it invites readers to join us as an Individual Member.
If you believe in the work we do at Circulate, please consider joining us. San Diego needs your help.
Executive Director and General Counsel
Circulate San Diego
As an advocacy think tank, Circulate San Diego has generated a lot of impact in the region by pressing for changes to public policy.
We have a simple formula. We identify a problem, we propose a solution, and we diligently and vigorously remind the public who is responsible for solving the problem.
Our research reports and policy letters are major ways that we identify problems and propose solutions. We remind people who is responsible for solving these problems with press conferences, social media, public testimony, and a whole variety of other tactics.
If a government agency proposes an alternative solution, even one that is different than we proposed, we are often eager to embrace it. A danger for advocates is to become too enamored with their own solutions. Most problems can be solved in a variety of ways, and a good advocate is focused on solving the problem, not advancing their pet solution.
As advocates, we often find ourselves making elected officials or decisionmakers uncomfortable. We point out that they are responsible for solving a problem, and we put pressure on them to act. This is not about burning bridges or making enemies. Quite the contrary, as we are unfailingly polite. Instead, what we try to establish is something we call a “useful tension.”
We do not want to be so aggressive that a decisionmaker wants to deny our request, just out of spite. Instead, we want them to be uncomfortable with our public dissatisfaction, and to be solicitous of our support. So when an elected official or public agency changes course, or makes a good decision, we are always generous and loud about our support.
This approach for a “useful tension” works. Sure, we’ve made some decisionmakers uncomfortable over the years. Nobody likes being told they’re making a mistake. However, those same decisionmakers often ask us to testify at their hearings, or to join them at press conferences, when they do the right thing. We always make sure that no matter how much we disagree, we can always make up, and give them public credit, if they make the right decision.
This strategy for advocacy has served our organization well. We have managed to chock up a number of public policy wins, far more than other organizations our size. We understand that transforming our land use and mobility choices will require a long-haul approach. We need long term relationships, incremental and swinging-for-the-fences victories, and a consistent and powerful brand to keep moving the needle.
We are in it to win it for San Diego. With your help, we can continue to make the region more vibrant, equitable, and affordable. Please consider joining Circulate San Diego as a member.