Become a Stronger South Dakota Advocate

Advocacy Academy is here to give you the foundational knowledge and skills you need to be an effective advocate for making change.

Most of us often think to ourselves, “my opinion doesn’t matter” and “my legislator isn’t really listening to me.”

With recent political news, it isn’t a shock that our thoughts skew toward the negative.  

Thankfully, these thoughts are the farthest thing from reality. The truth is, one person really can make a difference. Sharpen your change making skills starting today with Advocacy Academy, the ACLU’s digital learning series for activists and change-makers.  

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

You’ll learn the basics of organizing and campaigning, 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 who are willing to take the time to learn and to fight for a more just and equitable world for all. People like you who want to improve their community, have big ideas, and are ready to take action. 

Let’s get to work: Start your journey at session one then onward to the final session about Legislative Advocacy. 

Advocacy Academy Sessions

Session One: Introduction to Organizing and Campaigning

Learn more about how effective organizing can lead to successful campaigns.

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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. 

Session Two: Becoming a Conflict Competent Advocate

Conflict can arise anywhere at anytime. Let's talk through effective strategies to mitigate and manage conflict in advocacy.

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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

Session Three: The Art of Storytelling

Telling your story in a compelling fashion is an effective catalyst for change.

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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 

Session Four: Fundamentals of Legislative Advocacy

A lot happens from Jan. - March. Let's talk through effective ways to lobby and show up for your community during the legislative session.

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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