APEN Builds Community Voice and Influence Through In-District Advocacy

APEN Builds Community Voice and Influence Through In-District Advocacy

By Equal Voice Action


APEN members gather for in-district advocacy in Oakland, California in advance of the final 2017 California State Legislature session. Photo: APEN

Connecting community members with local leaders is essential for shaping public policy from the grassroots up. As organizers, a common concern is how we can do this in engaging, meaningful, and impactful ways.

The Asian Pacific Environmental Network, a member of the Bay Area Equal Voice Coalition, offers a model in building partnerships and community voice around a specific policy platform through its collaborative engagement in “In-District Advocacy Days.”

Based in Oakland, California, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) is an environmental, social, and economic justice organization whose organizing and advocacy work centers on Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities, including low-income, immigrant, and refugee families, throughout several key regions of California.

In August, ahead of the final California State Legislative session for 2017, APEN launched two weeks of organizing and advocacy activities designed to build voice and influence around its support of several proposed bills to advance environmental justice, immigrants’ rights, equity for underinvested communities, and other key policy objectives.

To organize and support this effort, APEN drew on the collective voice and power of the Asian Pacific American Climate Coalition (APACC), a collaboration of allied organizations across California that APEN launched in 2010 as part of its work to protect California’s landmark climate emissions bill, AB 32.

On August 7th, APEN kicked off its two-week advocacy action with a “Twitter Townhall” event called APIs Empowered: Resist & Renew, which engaged leaders from APACC members and allies in an online discussion of environmental justice issues and API communities.

The next day, APEN and its APACC allies launched a series of in-district advocacy visits, in which community members and organizational partners met with their local district leaders from the California State Legislature to engage them on the issues important to their cause.

APEN members meet with California State Senator Nancy Skinner, who represents the 9th Senate District, including the cities of Richmond and Oakland, as part of the organization’s in-district advocacy initiative. Photo: Mari Rose Taruc of APEN

Over two weeks, APEN and partners organized 14 visits with state legislators in districts across the cities of Oakland, Richmond, Los Angeles, Fresno, San Diego, and Sacramento. 

As APEN and allies documented and shared via social media, these visits brought coalition partners and community members of multiple generations together to engage face-to-face with their local representatives, allowing them to share their own experiences and expertise on how policy determined in Sacramento affects their families and communities throughout the state.

As APEN reports, the outcomes were powerful:

These visits focused on advocating on a range of environmental, economic and civil rights legislation and effectively engaged over 15 APACC organizations and key local partners across the state. We built relationships with one another, shared stories of how these bills impacted our communities, and strategized about intersectional issues and how to make sure our legislators heard our voices.

Notably, APEN and partners shared that the visits enabled them to ensure support on key bills and identify state representatives in opposition, all while strengthening their alliance and future advocacy efforts.

APEN members share their concerns on California Assembly Bill 398 at the office of California State Assembly Member Rob Bonta. Photo: APEN

As of this writing, at least two of the bills identified in APEN’s policy platform for the session – AB 523 (Equity in Clean Energy Innovation) and SB 54 (California Values Act) – have been approved and signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown.

Combining the powers of digital media with traditional in-person advocacy, APEN’s “In-District Advocacy Days” presents a compelling model for coalition-building and collective advocacy.

Pedro Hernández, a policy advocate for the Leadership Council for Justice & Accountability, one of APEN’s partners in the effort, described the value of these visits:

Our in-district visits are one of many strategies essential to finding solutions to the many intersectional issues facing the San Joaquin Valley. In an area where residents bear the burden of some of the worst air and water quality in the country, elected officials need to hear what’s happening on the ground. Our resident partners from rural and low-income communities are experts in their own experience and absolutely have the right of access to their representatives and demanding action for their priorities.

To learn more about APEN and APACC’s in-district visits, including the topics covered and approaches involved in facilitating these conversations, we encourage you to view the detailed social media posts from the meetings, as well as APEN’s blog post covering the action. To recap their 2017 advocacy campaign and build on these efforts for future work, APEN will also host a post-legislative session webinar on November 9, 2017 from 1:00-2:30pm PT.

The Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) believes that all people have a right to a clean and healthy environment in which their communities can live, work, learn, play and thrive. Towards this vision, APEN brings together a collective voice to develop an alternative agenda for environmental, social and economic justice.  Through building an organized movement, APEN strives to bring fundamental changes to economic and social institutions that will prioritize public good over profits and promote the right of every person to a decent, safe, affordable quality of life, and the right to participate in decisions affecting our lives.