Giving Lakes a Voice: a Collaboration for Wisconsin’s Waters

Oct 13, 2016 | Citizen Advocacy, Lakes, Water Policy

At the end of September, River Alliance and Wisconsin Lakes held two Lakes in Action: Advocacy 101 workshops in Northern Wisconsin. Our organizations have partnered on these workshops because we both saw a need to help water organizations have a better understanding of the opportunities they have to be advocates for protecting the waters of Wisconsin.

We began by having conversations with several “Countywides,” that is County Lake and River Associations, about their needs and interests. Recent policy changes in the state, such as weakening the shoreland zoning laws, have many organizations asking how they can get more involved in local and state policy decisions.

There are often misunderstandings of what a nonprofit organization is legally allowed to do when they advocate for issues and legislation. This workshop provided an overview of how government works, how bills are created, and the rules for lobbying. We also provided guidance about the best ways to communicate and build relationships with elected officials. The goal for groups is to be well respected and knowledgeable resources to elected officials, regardless of their political affiliation.

We think this note from a workshop participant sums up the impact of the workshop the best:

“Thank you for a wonderful advocacy workshop. What a perfect flow of information for what people need to know, from how laws and rules get made to developing your message and how to talk to elected officials and the public.

I was also thrilled with the real world perspectives and the honest conversations. If people follow the suggestions and build relationships, I think their messages will be better received by officials and policy makers.

After your workshop, I feel a renewed sense of hope that a smart and common sense approach can start to swing the pendulum back by building those bridges and relationships.”

We will be holding another workshop on October 27th from 6:00-9:00pm in the Village of Summit in Waukesha County. You can register on the Wisconsin Lakes website.

You can also read more about this workshop in a recent Lakeland Times article.