Relationship, Relationship, Relationship
This is the day we’ve all been waiting for. Although waiting probably isn’t the best word to use. This is the day we’ve all been working for. Working hard. First we made our way to Washington, DC, to sit at the feet of our anti-poverty champions, soaking up their knowledge and experience. Then we crammed like college students the night before a final exam preparing to meet with our members of congress and their aides. My favorite part was watching the RESULTS legislative director, John Fawcett, running from group to group, going over everything one last time.
I have personally attended three meetings today with aides to our state senators and representatives. 17 California constituents piled into meeting rooms to present our carefully crafted agenda. Hands were shaking, information packets were at the ready and speeches were practiced. We all came in with our contribution, even if it was just to be there representing our county without saying a word past initial introductions. I was so proud of everyone at that table. Even when one of our prepared speeches fell short somehow, another partner came through and smoothly filled in the gaps. At the smaller meeting between me, my local RESULTS partner, and her representative’s aide, I listened to her grab the opportunity to finally sit down and speak with him about microcredit for the first time.
Tomorrow is my face-to-face meeting with my member of congress. Even after today’s successes, I’m a little nervous. Tonight is our celebration banquet. I’ll enjoy it but I’ll most certainly be clutching my agenda outline under the table repeating the words I hope will come out right. But there’s one thing I will take with me that I learned again today. I seem to need to learn it over and over. To quote RESULTS’ founder, Sam Daley-Harris, “Relationship, relationship, relationship.” The aides who sat around the conference tables with us today were mere mortals. As eager (and nervous) as we were to influence them, they were eager to gain our approval. They’re busy, they’re tired and they want us to bring them something challenging and inspiring. They’re glad when we’ve done our homework. They actually listen to what we have to say and hope we’ll listen back.
I’m not saying they were eager to give us what we wanted on a silver platter. It was actually the opposite in some cases. But RESULTS lobbyists are good at relationship-building because we’re hope-filled people. We see the possibility even in the face of an outright “no.” All of those hours of cramming do pay off. RESULTS lobbyists build relationships without trying to get our members to do exciting things for us to change the world. We get to know our aides, and supply them with ideas and information, so that we can do exciting things together to change the world.