Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

Results Founder and Author Sam Daley-Harris on Creating Champions for a Cause

Final Front Cover PanelSam Daley-Harris knows quite a bit about using advocacy to effect social change. He is the founder of the anti-poverty nonprofit RESULTS, the organization's Microcredit Summit Campaign, and the Center for Citizen Empowerment and Transformation—as well as a longtime Bread for the World member. Daley-Harris is also the author of Reclaiming Our Democracy, in which he offers ordinary citizens strategies to become powerful advocates. He recently released the 20th-anniversary edition of his book, which issues a challenge to organizations to provide a deeper level of empowerment to their members.

"There needs to be an understanding on how to coach volunteers to go deeper with their advocacy," he says. "I spent the first 31 years of my life like most people — hopeless about solving big problems. I got involved in [California anti-hunger nonprofit] the Hunger Project in 1977 and met my member of Congress, the late Bill Lehman (D-Fla.) about a year later. He’s the one who told me about Bread and urged me to join."

Daley-Harris says he "cut his teeth" at Bread for the World, where he was introduced to advocacy work, then went on to found RESULTS in 1980, and wrote the first edition of Reclaiming Our Democracy in 1993, based on what he'd learned about grassroots activism. The updated version of the book still focuses on strengthening advocacy efforts but includes new information on using current technologies and social media in advocacy work. Daley-Harris says that although social media has expanded advocacy efforts in many ways, it's still important for nonprofits to offer their volunteers a way to engage that goes beyond a mouse click. Namely, organizations must offer their activists "a deep curriculum and rich support" — in other words, prepare advocates with useful information and offer them help in engaging with their elected officials.

He says the Bread model of not just asking advocates to sign an online petition or send a form email, but encouraging them to contact members of Congress through personal letters, phone calls, and in-person meetings — as well as writing letters to the editors of local papers — is key to "creating champions in Congress and in the media."

"If someone is in an organization that does significant online 'mouse-click advocacy,' I’m not saying to stop that," he says. "I'm just saying that if you have a million members, or half a million members, or 100,000 members, or 50,000 members, there's a small percentage of your members who want to go much deeper than that. And if you allow them to do that, major change is possible. [Those are the things] that get to the root of changing a member of Congress' position and really dealing with things like climate change and global poverty, which are systemic issues."

Letters to the editor, in particular, Daley-Harris says, are a tool that many organizations are no longer emphasizing, even though they are still incredibly effective. "Are newspapers struggling? Yes. Are they cutting back on the number of their editorial writers? Yes," he says. "But when I wake up in the morning, the first thing that I do, I wake up and I read my emails, I read Google news, and I read the New York Times online. I think we all still go to the newspaper — we just might not go to the front yard to pick it up." (See Bread's guide to writing a successful letter to the editor.)

Finally, Daley-Harris says, he learned from his time at RESULTS and his early work with Bread that advocates are capable of, and want to do, a tremendous amount of work for worthy causes. Too many organizations are afraid of giving their grassroots too much to do, but there will always be a core group who wants to do more, not less. "People really want to make a bigger difference," he says.

 

« Broad Budget Spending Bill Likely This Week Beckmann Provides Preview of Upcoming Year to Grassroots Activists »

Comments

As a member of RESULTS Australia since we commenced in 1986, I remain inspired by the people I've met and the results of which we've been a part.

In 1986, the preventable deaths of children around our world were 40,000 and these have now been reduced to about 21,000. That's like 40 jumbo jets full of children crashing each day. 

One of the reasons why 1990 has become the comparison point for measuring these improvements was the 1990 World Summit for Children in New York, when world leaders gathered in the cause of the world's children. I was privileged to have heard Jim Grant of UNICEF speak in Washington just before the Summit.

He was a passionate man - about the future of our planet and its children. It was a passion shared by Sam Daley-Harris, Professor Yunus formerly of the Grameen Bank, Jim Wolfensohn formerly head of the World Bank and many other volunteers here in Australia and elsewhere.

The UN Development Programme has reported that the main poverty eradication target of the Millennium Development Goals has been achieved, ahead of time before the target date of 2015. It was very good news that the proportion of people living on less than US$1.25 a day plunged from 43 percent in 1990 to 22 percent in 2008. 

However, 1.3 billion people continue existing on US$1.25 each day. That’s about one-third of what we willingly pay for just one cup of coffee. 

In this "silent emergency", much more remains for our passion to share our wealth and achieve results.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341d945753ef019b04bed526970d

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Results Founder and Author Sam Daley-Harris on Creating Champions for a Cause:

Stay Connected

Bread for the World