“It ain’t over till it’s over.” – Yogi Berra
“Don’t give up; don’t ever give up!” – Jim Valvarno
Persistence – firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.
In this edition of the advocacy playbook, we discuss the one characteristic that separates those who are successful at advocating and those who are not persistent. It took over 5 years for a small group of dentists in Massachusetts to change a policy decision by the state dental society that was unpopular with the majority of dentist members but influenced by outside forces. FIVE YEARS!
While all of the conversations concerning the issues felt important, they were also sometimes deflating. Advocacy can be like that. It’s rare that you’ll leave any meeting with a very specific outcome or a solid promise of action. Throughout the five years, new information was collected and communicated to the dentists throughout the state via all available media platforms and personal correspondence. After all the town-halls and webinars, plans of action and promises were never made. However, along the way, more dentists joined the group and added to the voice for change. Change for the better. But even so, there were doubts. Were the time and effort worth it? Was the ever-expanding group of dentists accomplishing anything? And after the long five years of persistently educating and advocating, the change in policy finally came to pass.
The advocacy effort is an unlimited force that needs to be consistently applied when most needed. It might not be at this meeting, or the next one, or even the next one. But persistent, patient effort, with an emphasis on personal relationships and advanced analytics, is crucial. If you look first and foremost to make connections, and then you keep at it, the tangible results will come. Yet to some, the idea of reaching out to policymakers with information or concerns around specific issues may seem unproductive or reserved for those with big lobbying budgets. They assume their voice won’t be heard or worse, that it doesn’t matter, but with persistence, the message ultimately does reach its intended audience with a much louder tone than when the journey started. So, let’s use diligence and persistence: diligence in knowing the issues and identifying the solutions, persistence in our outreach. The responsibility does not just lie in our nation’s capital or your state capital. If we want to see change, then each of us is responsible for prioritizing, promoting, and communicating the issues that matter with passion and persistence.
Jeffrey Lowenstein, DMD