Last week the Humphrey Institute’s Center on Women and Public Policy hosted Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL. She presented an interesting case of the pressing roles that nonprofit organizations play in relationship to government, politics, and public policy. In the question and answer portion of the discussion, I inquired if she thought the multi-faceted approaches (adversarial, supplementary, and complementary roles) that women’s organizations have pursued with government have contributed to or decreased the collective power of the women’s movement. Her answer was intriguing. Neither, and both.
She replied with an example of NARAL, where they treat choice with an integrated and intergenerational lens of policy issues. She spoke of connecting pro-choice perspectives through public school’s provision of sex education, access to birth control, and emergency contraception as relational to women throughout various phases of their lives. She named major constituency groups as "middle-school mama’s" and the "menopausal militia" – equally engaged in choice, but segmented on the specific issue. She argued that people will naturally do this – connect where it affects their lives most. She perceived her role in leading NARAL is to encourage this, and then make connections for women and help them see the overarching policy issue of choice.
Could this be policy innovation, or just another way to frame an issue? When I worked at the YMCA we talked about members involved with programming and membership from cradle to grave. What about if we approached public policy in this manner?
Housing coalitions could be formed among nonprofit organizations working with individuals, families, and retirees. Education advocacy efforts might be focused on early childhood education all the way to higher education. We might see healthcare coalitions that include advocacy efforts to reduce both infant mortality and increase Medicare funding. Is your nonprofit working in an integrated coalition? Share your successes with other pubTalkers…