munity is talking about Head Start,11 he or she can talk about the impact Head Start has on the lives of people from those communities who succeed.

Fifth is choosing a messenger that will have the greatest impact for particular policy makers. If a legislator is an evangelical Christian, an evangelical pastor may be a powerful messenger.

The final condition is maintaining an identity that is distinct from the service providers who receive money from the programs being promoted, Rollin said. Unexpected allies are not child advocates or anti-hunger advocates. They are law enforcement or military personnel or others.

What Not to Expect from Unexpected Allies

Rollin closed by briefly describing four things she believes should not be expected from unexpected alliances.

The first is a response from an introductory e-mail or a fax. As Rollin noted earlier, organizations seeking an ally need to follow up in person.

Second, messaging is more likely to be effective when knowledgeable staff “speak the language” of the target audience. At the Council for a Strong America, the research and organization teams are shared among the four sibling organizations, while the membership staff that recruit, educate, and motivate members are different for each organization.

Third, allies should not be expected to participate in multiple or long meetings. For example, advocacy coordination meetings can be long, painful, and frequent, and grassroots organizations will not have patience for them.

Lastly, allies are unlikely to join all the advocacy campaigns on which a coalition works. For example, prosecutors are passionate about effective research-based investments in prevention and intervention, but they are unlikely to work on reducing or restricting the ability to try children as adults. Similarly, not all of the allies in an organization are going to agree with all of the positions held by other allies.

Rollin ended by saying that enlisting non-traditional allies can be challenging and often requires unconventional procedures. However, it also adds great value in bringing the work of researchers to policy makers and the media in ways that can make a difference for children.


11For more information on Head Start, see

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