Advocating for Sustainability

Lead Instructor: Sue Inches

Course Overview: In current times, advocacy is as much about personal values and strategic communications as it is about the facts of an issue. With the polarization of political parties and the emergence of extreme political positions, it has become more important to understand the underlying psychology and motivations of advocates and decision makers. An understanding of the emotional and mental models that drive political positions, the relationships between stakeholders and policy makers, and how to frame and speak about an issue have become critically important to success in advocacy work. The course will begin with a focus on power, values and perception and how political positions reflect these mental models. An overview of the Legislative process in Maine will also be presented, setting the context for our advocacy work. Readings, in-class exercises and discussion will be used to build our understanding. Exercises may include stakeholder analysis, power mapping, values identification, how to use leverage points, and how to frame and develop speaking points on an issue. Guest lecturers and case examples from Maine will reinforce concepts. Once a conceptual foundation is established, student teams will review bill titles and select an environmental or energy issue they would like to work on. Diversity of views will be encouraged, and there will also be ample opportunity for students to work on issues they fully support. Using tools presented in the course, teams will analyze their selected issue, conduct research, develop talking points, and draft and deliver testimony. Teams will present their testimony to the class with time for critique, discussion and revision prior to presenting their testimony to a Legislative Committee. Students will travel to Augusta to observe Legislative Committee Hearings. If schedules coincide, students will present their Testimony in Committee. If schedules don’t coincide, appointments will be made with Committee Chairs where students can present their Testimony and dialogue with the Chairs on their selected issue.

Meeting Times: T/Th/Fr 9-12 & 1-2

Learning Objectives:

  1. Create a power map of stakeholders as a foundation for advocacy and organizing.
  2. Design an advocacy plan that accounts for how values, worldview and biases influence political positions.
  3. Identify and analyze stakeholders, markets & decisionmakers
  4. Frame and communicate an issue so it appeals to what people care about
  5. Understand Maine’s Legislative process and where it fits in the spectrum of social change
  6. Create a clear and impactful message through written and oral presentations.
  7. Draft and deliver testimony to policy decision makers (Legislative Committees, State Agencies, Public Utilities Commission, Governor, etc.)

Instructor Bio

Sue has worked in community and economic development for over 25 years. She served 14 years in state government, including 7 years as Deputy Director of the State Planning Office, where she developed and lobbied for legislative solutions. Sue’s key achievements include establishing Maine’s Uniform Building and Energy Code, establishing Current Use Taxation for the Working Waterfront, and writing legislation that established Efficiency Maine. Sue has provided strong support to the Maine economy. She served on the Coastal Enterprises (CEI) Board for nine years, including 3 years as Board Chair. She also served on the Maine Technology Institute board for seven years. Currently, Sue works as a consultant and activist, with a focus on strategic communications. Recently she persuaded her 400-member church to support a 128-panel solar system and gathered 500 signatures for the Ranked Choice Voting campaign. Sue has her BA from College of the Atlantic, and her MBA from the University of NH. She lives in North Yarmouth with her husband Bob Sessums and dog Nutmeg.