Wall Street Journal Editorial on Conference Waste – My Letter to the Editor.

Here is my Letter to the Editor of the Wall Street Journal responding to  an editorial in yesterday’s (March 6, 2013) edition about government waste in conferences. In case you missed the editorial, here is a link to view.


Letter to the Editor of the WSJ

I write in response to your editorial “#SequesterThis” (March 6), as someone who spent a career in the meetings and conference industry. I speak often on the subject of the vital role conferences play in sparking innovation, driving organizational growth, and providing unique learning and training opportunities.

The conferences cited in your editorial identified key objectives to their success, “provide resource support to professionals and community leaders working to improve community health.” It’s not about the wine or the tasty dishes, however it is about achieving key objectives. Face-to-face conferences allow people to remove themselves from their daily routine and completely focus on the topic at hand to advance their knowledge and expertise.

The conferences cited provide a perfect opportunity for the public and private sector to exchange their knowledge and expertise. We can ill afford to allow the public sector to remain shut off in the their offices while not engaging or understanding how legislation and regulation imposed will affect individuals, organizations, businesses and the public at large. We cannot afford a larger disconnect between the government and the citizens it is charged with serving. Conferences like these provide the vital platform to connect.

Roger Rickard
Founder, Voices in Advocacy®
Rocklin, CA

Action #4 of the 7 Actions of Highly Effective Advocates is to: Get on the Record. Here is the email address so that you may also “get on the record’ by writing a Letter to the Editor of the WSJ: wsj.ltrs@wsj.com

For tips on how to Write a Letter to the Editor go to http://www.voicesinadvocacy.com/tools and click on the link – Writing Letters to the Editor.


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Has the Internet transformed advocacy?

We have seen many cases recently where the digital transformation of advocacy tactics has truly revolutionized the power of the singular voice. There has been a seismic shift in the balance of power, from the shaking of dictatorships during the Arab Spring, to corporate America, all under fire from average people using the Internet as their weapon of choice.

Take for instance Molly Katchpole, a 22-year-old, nonprofit worker challenged corporate America from her apartment using only her laptop and an Internet connection. She took on the second-largest bank in America, Bank of America and their announced five dollar monthly fee for debit card use. She filed an online petition, in the fall of 2011, through Change.org, “At some point we have to say enough is enough. Please join me and telling Bank of America you’re fed up,” wrote Molly. Quickly the petition amassed 300,000 signatures and the story generated national media attention for how rapidly it prompted Bank of America to rescind the fee. In the past a petition drive would drag on for months as advocates sought enough support, one signature the time, to create change. Molly then took on Verizon for adding a fee to their consumers, winning a battle against one of corporate America’s giant communications companies.

Ben Rattray, Founder and CEO of Change.org, “We have taken the world’s oldest advocacy tool, the petition, and propelled it into the 21st century and the modern-day petition mobilizes people more rapidly and more socially in a way that makes it impossible to ignore.” Rattray added, “People are shocked at their own capacity to make a difference on things they previously could not affect.” There has always been protest for as long as people have been gathering. Now protests can form and grow a lot faster, forcing corporations and governments to react a lot faster than they may normally be comfortable in doing. At change.org thousands of new petitions are being created monthly. Currently there is a petition against Enterprise Rent-A-Car, asking them to stop opposing a law prohibiting companies from renting out recalled cars. As of today they have over 132,000 signatures and counting.

When lawmakers recently came close to passing anti-piracy bills SOPA and PIPA, SOPA standing for Stop Online Piracy Act and PIPA standing for Protect Intellectual Property Act, the Internet response was overwhelming. Many people believed these acts would squash the freedom of the Internet. Many major websites like Google, Wired, Wikipedia, and many others were clothed in black for a day. The only thing one could do on the Wikipedia site was to contact their congressman, and according to a Wikipedia spokesperson, millions did. Congress listened to the drumbeat coming from the people on the Internet by having many members reconsider this pending legislation. Once again when people use their voice to speak out, they demonstrate their collective power.

Even the 140 character social networking service Twitter has played an important role as an instantaneous communication tool during times of unrest. A couple of years ago the US State Department asked Twitter to hold off on a planned routine maintenance, which would temporarily take down the site, which coincided with planned protests inside Iran.

Earlier this year, during a presentation at a media conference in California, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said, “I really think 2012 is going to be the Twitter Election.” Twitter has become a real-time essential tool for reaching voters as well as gathering and responding to feedback. “Washington is really starting to get that too … [It’s] actively engaging in the real-time feedback loop now,” he added. “Candidates who don’t participate in the conversation on twitter will be left behind. The next morning is too late to respond.”

There is no avoiding the power that social media has given to people who have in the past viewed themselves as powerless. People who have not previously been associated with a formal advocacy group now single-handedly have a powerful voice.

Many points from this blog post were taking from the CBS News Sunday morning show which aired February 12, 2012.

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Hello world!

This blog is about the power of using ones’ voice to advocate for ones’ cause. We will be writing and discussing topics around empowering people to make a difference in the field of advocacy. What can we do to use our voice to speak up and speak out about the issues that affect us the most? What is your voice? How can you effectively use your voice to influence? How do you communicate to make your voice stronger and more viable? We will address this type of communications.

Posts will be about what’s on my mind. A mix of current events, political theater, advocacy, the value of face to face engagement, the value of meetings, and once in a while – something completely off the wall.   So sit back, grab a beverage of choice, and participate. I need your involvement to assist others.

Enjoy our posts of the day.

Roger Rickard,  Chief Advocate

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Four, Nineteen, ONE, and then finally Eight.

Whitman Voting (LOC)

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

Last evening in Iowa proved to be a valuable lesson for those of us that advocate the value of one vote, of your vote. As I watched the returns roll in I couldn’t help but think about the power of one vote. Four, nineteen, one, and then finally eight votes separated the top two candidates. I wonder how many people in Iowa chose to stay home last night. After all we can all find excuses or reasons if you will, to not participate in the electoral process. “I have a lot to do this evening.” “It’s too cold to run out this evening.” “They don’t really need my vote.” “One vote won’t really make a difference.” Last night proved that one vote can make a difference, does make a difference, that every vote makes a difference.

The right to vote is the hallmark of the American government, but the numbers of those actually voting remain extraordinarily low. There is convincing evidence that proves the power of the vote, despite the overwhelming majority of citizens who do not realize the impact of their vote.  Widespread disenchantment and cynicism exist throughout the country about the ability to make progressive change through the political process, but it is imperative that citizens realize otherwise.

A lack of faith in the power of voting is indicated by the extraordinarily low turnout rate. This must change. Individuals must recognize the power of voicing one’s opinion through exercising their right to vote.

Low voter turnout only magnifies the influence of those that cast their vote. Let’s use a simple math equation to prove this point. In this sample, let’s say there are hundred registered voters and only 50% (or 50 people) cast their vote. Each of these 50 voters has the power of one other voter, their vote magnifies two times. Let’s say there are a hundred registered voters and only 20% (or 20 people) cast their vote. Each of these 20 voters has the power of five other voters, thus their vote magnifies five times. For every registered voter that fails to vote, the person who casts their vote has greater importance.

In 1839, Marcus Morton was indeed elected governor of Massachusetts by one vote. Of the 102,066 votes cast by the good people of that state, he received exactly 51,034. Had his count been 51,033, the election would have been thrown into the Legislature, where he probably would not have won. Morton also made the record books in 1842 when he won the same office again by one vote, this time in the Legislature.

People love to say, “But my vote really doesn’t matter.” Our voice and our vote do matter; even in the face of great odds. Sometimes the odds seem insurmountable, overwhelming if you will.

ONE vote can make all the difference.

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