Organize an Educational Site Visit to Communities Affected by Poverty
One of the most potent ways to connect with the heart and soul of our issues is to schedule a site visit to an organization or group affected by poverty right in your own community. A site visit is meant to be a respectful way of learning from and standing in solidarity with those who are directly impacted by the legislation for which we advocate.
Here are some tips on how to set up a site visit for your group:
Discuss the possibility of a site visit with your group. Would they be interested in such a visit? Do they have an idea of what they would like to learn from such an experience?
Choose a site. Internet research can get your started. You can also talk to people in your community about ideas. Faith communities are also a good resource, as many are connected to direct service organizations focusing on poverty.
Once you have chosen a specific site to visit, research it. Again, internet research and talking with others familiar with the site will offer you a lot of preliminary information and will help shape a question list you can use on an exploratory phone call. Some important questions to consider include the following:
How does the site relate to the particular RESULTS campaign on which you are focusing?
Would the site welcome a visit? Are there any conflicts of interest in hosting an advocate’s group?
Can a visit take place during the week or on a weekend?
What date is your group available to visit the site? Have 3 or 4 options ready to suggest before calling the site.
Scheduling a Visit
Call the site and ask for the executive director or office manager. Identify yourself as a member of RESULTS in your community and briefly define RESULTS for the person answering your call. Tell them why RESULTS is interested in their site.
Also ask whether your group could make a site visit in order to take more knowledgeable action. Is it best to have someone give you a tour, talk to you about the site, or talk to you about the action RESULTS could take after the visit? Get their input on this question. They may set you up with interesting speakers that you would not have been able to suggest.
Work with the site representative on logistics for the visit and co-create a visit agenda including an introduction to staff, a review of site services, and highlight how the critical points of your chosen campaign would make a positive impact on the site you are visiting.
Carefully discuss discretion/privacy issues for site clients (during the visit and in sharing observations/stories after the visit) with the site representative and review these with the group. Also be sure to tell the site representative how many from your group you anticipate attending the visit.
Notify your group of the visit and your expectations based on what you have arranged, including discretion/privacy issues.
Confirm the visit with the site the day before to be sure all is set.
Conducting the Visit and Following Up
Be punctual to the actual visit and be mindful of the time of the persons you are meeting with.
Once the visit is over, send thank you notes to the site and/or speakers. Stress what you learned when you visited and how it will be helpful to your group as they work. Often these visits will provide you with greater motivation to take action, and the site will welcome knowing that.
Be sure to invite the persons you met with at the site to attend an upcoming RESULTS meeting. By doing so, they can see how you intend to put the knowledge you gained from the visit to use in your RESULTS work.
Thanks to RESULTS Des Moines activist Judy Zobel for her help in preparing this Milestone.