Toolkit: Advocacy Academy

“Does my opinion really matter?”

“Is my legislator actually going to listen to me?”

“I’m just one person. What can I really do?”

You’ve probably heard people say things like that before. You’ve probably said things like that before.

But that’s where you’re wrong. One person really can make a difference. And over the next few months, we’re going to show you how.

Whether you are fighting for LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit equality, Indigenous justice, criminal law reform, reproductive freedom, or all of that and more, the Advocacy Academy will give you the foundational knowledge and skills you need to be an effective advocate for making change.

You’ll learn the basics of organizing and campaigning, improve your emotional resilience, gain a foundational knowledge of conflict management strategies, figure out how to tell your story in an effective way, and learn how to put everything together for legislative advocacy.

The world needs more people like you willing to take the time to learn and to  fight for a more just and equitable world for all. People who want to improve their community, who have big ideas, and who are ready to take action.

Get started

Course timeline

Q.Course timeline
A.

These days, we’re living in a virtual world. And the Advocacy Academy is no different. It just makes sense. South Dakota is a big state – and many of us are miles and miles apart.

Watch each session as soon as it premieres or make time to watch it on your schedule. But make sure to log in on time for the community hours. That’s where you’ll get the chance to meet and connect with advocates and changemakers just like you who are ready to make a difference in our state.

Add these dates to your calendar today or look for an email from southdakota@aclu.org with calendar invites attached.

  • Nov. 10, 2021 
    • Session 1 Introduction to Organizing and Campaigning
    • Premieres at 7 p.m. CT on YouTube. 
  • Nov. 17, 2021 
    • Advocacy Academy Community Hour at 7 p.m. CT on Zoom.
  • Dec. 1, 2021 
    • Session 2 Becoming a Conflict Competent Advocate
    • Premieres at 7 p.m. CT on YouTube.
  • Dec. 8, 2021
    • Advocacy Academy Community Hour at 7 p.m. CT on Zoom
  • Dec. 15, 2021
    • Session 3 The Art of Storytelling
    • Premieres at 7 p.m. CT on YouTube.
  • Jan. 5, 2022
    • Session 4 Fundamentals of Legislative Advocacy
    • Premieres at 7 p.m. CT on YouTube.
  • Jan. 12, 2022
    • Advocacy Academy Community Hour at 7 p.m. CT on Zoom.

Meet your instructors

Q.Meet your instructors
A.

Jett Jonelis (they/she)

As the advocacy manager for the ACLU of South Dakota, Jett builds the ACLU’s public education and advocacy programs through coalition-building, leadership development, communication, and lobbying. They ensure that supporters of the ACLU of South Dakota have the tools, information, and opportunities to be effective advocates on issues like LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit rights, Indigenous justice, and criminal justice reform. Jett is dedicated to working in community with activists, organizers, and changemakers across the state to create a more just and equitable world for all South Dakotans.

Antonio Serrano (he/him)

As the advocacy manager for the ACLU of Wyoming, Antonio builds the ACLU’s public education and advocacy programs through coalition-building, leadership development, communication, and lobbying. He’s played crucial roles in campaigns like WyoSayNo, a coalition that fought and successfully blocked two private prison companies from building an immigration detention center in the state, and the Wyoming Rapid Response Network, a team that documents actions by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in the state.

Janna Farley (she/her)

As communications director, Janna oversees the communications program for the ACLU of South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming chapter and is responsible for developing communications strategies that help promote the ACLU’s mission to protect and advance civil liberties in the three states. These strategies include print and online communications, social media, media outreach, brand management, and provocative storytelling.

Cherise C. Alexander (she/her, they/them)

Cherise is a licensed marriage and family therapist providing therapeutic support to individuals, couples, and families in South Dakota and Washington state. She specializes in gender and sexuality topics within her therapeutic practice. Additionally, she has presented on topics related to gender, sexuality, relationships, and conflict management over the past 10 years for local and national organizations. Cherise believes education and connection are the first steps toward change and creating a more meaningful experience between people of different backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences.

Session One: Introduction to Organizing and Campaigning

Q.Session One: Introduction to Organizing and Campaigning
A.

A fundamental concept that anyone hoping to get into advocacy should learn about is organizing – the ability to bring people together to build community power and take action. Organizing is an important advocacy tool because the problems we see in our world did not happen by accident. The issues facing communities today are the result of centuries of systemic oppression built into our laws, policies, and everyday practices and preserved by people with power and privilege.

Campaigns are important because they help make your larger vision more attainable. They take abstract concepts and help you clarify your goals, how you will achieve them, and help you evaluate how well your campaign is progressing. They also help guide your decisions about how to invest your resources. Campaigns are a great way to take steps toward your big ideas, build your base, and harness your collective power!

By the end of session one, you’ll be able to:

  • Understand fundamental aspects about organizing and campaigning through a variety of lenses.
  • Identify the essential elements of a campaign plan.
  • Start planning campaigns (with clear and actionable goals) to fight for social justice.

Want more? Explore these resources:

Tune in on Nov. 10, 2021 on YouTube

Session Two: Becoming a Conflict Competent Advocate

Q.Session Two: Becoming a Conflict Competent Advocate
A.

Conflict is a natural part of advocacy and organizing. In some ways, advocacy is all about conflict because it is about demanding change and challenging the status quo. When we refuse to engage in conflict, we are refusing to show up for communities that are suffering under the status quo. As an advocate or organizer, you will also encounter conflict in so many different ways.

Conflict management is a unique skill in an advocacy context because your strategies and approaches to conflict depend on the nature of your relationships. Your approach to conflict should be tied to your core values and mission. You need to think strategically using a diversity of tactics to figure out your approach - particularly when your relationships are fragile, strategic, or adversarial.

By the end of session two, you’ll be able to:

  • Explain fundamental conflict resolution concepts and strategies and how they apply to an advocacy framework
  • Use practical examples to illustrate how advocates can use these strategies in their everyday lives at multiple levels
  • Discuss the relationship between conflict resolution, trauma and advocacy work

Want more? Explore these resources:

  • “Nonviolent Communication and Conflict Resolution” by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD.
  •  “Nonviolent Communication Companion Workbook” by Lucy Leu
  • “Conflict Resolution Playbook” by Jeremy Pollack
  • “Negotiate Without Fear” by Victoria Medvec
  • Self-Care for Advocates

Tune in on Dec. 1, 2021 on YouTube

Session Three: The Art of Storytelling

Q.Session Three: The Art of Storytelling
A.

Storytelling is a powerful tool for advocacy. Whether you’re sharing your story with a small group or an organization, on a video you’ll share on social media, with legislators or other elected officials, or with the media, stories have the power to persuade and move people to action. Stories are more memorable than facts alone and help make the case for why a policymaker should stand behind your cause.

Telling our stories is a really impactful way for us to connect with people over our shared values. People are motivated to take action when they feel that their personal story is connected to someone else’s personal story. People get involved – and stay involved – when they feel like they are building a community that reflects their values.

By the end of session three, you’ll be able to:

  • Understand the basics of public narrative: values, emotion, and story structure
  • Discuss the importance of self-care in sharing difficult and personal stories
  • Learn criteria for an effective story of self for advocacy
  • Talk about sharing stories publicly

Want more? Explore these resources:

Tune in on Dec. 15, 2021 on YouTube

Note: Because of the December holidays, there will be no Community Hour for Session 3. Rest up, enjoy time with family and friends, and get ready for 2022!

Session Four: Fundamentals of Legislative Advocacy

Q.Session Four: Fundamentals of Legislative Advocacy
A.

Decisions made during the annual sessions of the South Dakota Legislature have a deep and lasting impact on our state’s people and communities. As new laws are created and others repealed or written, it’s important to ensure that these changes preserve and strengthen our constitutional rights.

Legislative advocacy is all about making change by influencing what legislation is introduced, passed, and becomes law. Whether you’re making a phone call, texting your senator, setting up virtual meeting with your representatives, or attending a march or protest, the choice is yours. Every action you take will inch us closer toward broadening and strengthening civil liberties in South Dakota.

By the end of session four, you’ll be able to:

  • Understand legislative lingo and concepts
  • Navigate the South Dakota legislative process
  • Maximize your impact in your community during legislative session and throughout the year
  • Act proactively and be an effective advocate for any issue you care about

Want more? Explore these resources:

Tune in on Jan. 5, 2022 on YouTube