have a retired admiral talking about school lunches? That unexpectedness gets you partway there.”
The fourth desired attribute of an ally, said Rollin, is not being a direct recipient of funding associated with the issue being discussed. This is another reason why having law enforcement representatives speak about Head Start, after-school programs, and juvenile justice is so effective for Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, said Rollin.
Conditions for Effective Alliances
Once an alliance with an unexpected partner has been formed, what are the best ways of working with that partner? Rollin pointed to six conditions: developing a research base, building relationships, facilitating engagement, utilizing an anecdote or personal story, choosing a high-impact messenger, and maintaining an identity.
The first condition is developing a research base specifically designed for the messenger. The ally needs to speak in terms that both the ally and the ally’s audiences understand and feel comfortable with. Allies are experts in their own areas, not in child nutrition, early childhood education, or after-school programs. “We joke now that we [Council for a Strong America] are a quadra-lingual organization. We speak cop, we speak military, we speak business, and we speak religion.”
The second condition is building relationships as a key component of the work. The allies tend to be grassroots organizations. They are not going to respond just because their partner organization is passionate about an issue. Rollin elaborated on this point: “You need to not just fax and e-mail stuff out. You call them up. You do a follow-up call. When you recruit them, you don’t recruit them by sending an e-mail or fax. You recruit them by meeting with them. It may be at a law enforcement conference. It may be at a lunch you have locally. It may be just going to their offices and meeting with them. It’s a lot more intensive, but it’s relationship based. And that’s what is going to help them become passionate about the issue and be an effective messenger.”
The third condition is making it easy for an ally to become engaged. Examples include arranging the logistics of a trip to Washington to testify, preparing draft materials for op-eds and for meetings with policy makers, and fully briefing representatives of the ally in advance.
Fourth is making sure that the ally is telling a story. The story should be backed up by research, but “policy happens through anecdote,” said Rollin. If a prosecutor is working on child abuse prevention, the story can be about a child who was killed by an offender. If a sheriff from a low-income community