In the last few days, I have been in three different conversations about how to talk about the need for resource for access advocacy.
There has been a common theme in these discussions — the unfortunate tendency for this to be structured as a conversation about raising money for legal aid, or for a particular program/project.
We have become trapped into appearing selfish, or rather self-centered. We must always remember that what appeals to funders is not the need for lawyers or legal aid, but the critical role that access services play in protecting the safety net, in leveraging investments in health, education, social services etc., and in making sure that those services are delivered fairly.
During these conversations, an insight came to me. Its actually been easier to get the editorials written about how terrible it is to cut legal aid funding, than it is to get opinion makers to focus on the broader value of access services to community, society and budget. The plethora of those anti-cut articles — since about 1980 or so — means that that narrative of wrongful and politically motivated cuts is so well established that it is hard to replace it with the much more positive, constructive, and effective story of the high efficiency of leveraging investments in access advocacy services.
But, and this is the key point — it is only such a broader narrative that is going to build a broad funding coalition in which a far larger range of funders will support investments that provide access advocacy services to increase their general investments in areas such as education, health, housing, and community.
Let get the focus off ourselves and our needs.