If you had the opportunity to speak with DC policymakers, what would you talk about and how would you go about it?
An Intro to Policy Class teaches exactly what you should do in this situation. You must define what you’re asking for, use stats and figures, and effectively use your time with the policymaker.
But do you want to know what the biggest secret is? The most effective strategies involve stories. Sharing your personal stories will help policymakers remember why these issues are important.
Last week, Thrive DC created an opportunity to do just that. As a member of the ACT (A Chance to Thrive) Initiative, we hosted a dinner for returning citizens, DC policymakers, and ACT Initiative representatives. The Thrive DC Real Opps trainees prepared a dinner of chicken wings, mac and cheese, and dessert. These trainees are returning citizens working on earning their ServSafe Certification so they can apply to restaurant jobs. With the table set, the ACT Initiative hoped these three groups of individuals could come together to discuss what re-entry in DC is really like, what barriers make it hard coming home from incarceration, and what policies and programs make it easier.
Throughout the event, the sounds of constant conversation and laughter filled the hall. There was not a specific agenda. Instead, each table had a mix of policymakers, ACT representatives, and returning citizens whom we asked to share their lived experiences. From there, the conversations led themselves to whichever stories the participants desired. Even when the event ended, many people stayed to continue chatting. People traded contact information and promised to stay in touch.
For those who aren’t familiar with re-entry, let me explain a bit. Re-entry is when a formerly incarcerated person comes home. There are many barriers that they face in this process, such as facing employment and housing discrimination. To address these barriers, Thrive DC's Real Opportunities program, trains returning citizens in culinary skills and vouches for them when they apply for work in a kitchen. Similar programs exist across DC and beyond, such as this program that teaches incarcerated people basic technology skills. The ACT Initiative Dinner aimed to create conversations between returning citizens and policymakers, to inspire policymakers to reduce barriers to reentry.
Thrive DC is so grateful to have had the opportunity to host this event. We look forward to future collaborations with our ACT Initiative partners and to seeing where these conversations take us.
Ready to join the conversation with us? Check out the ACT Initiative’s website or follow us at achancetothrive on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.