Reaching policy makers

How do you reach policy makers with your education news? How do you begin to affect public policy at the local, state, and national level?
These questions were addressed at a really engaging panel session at the American Educational Research Association conference here in San Francisco.
Stanford University's Michael Kirst is a long time advocate for education on the public policy front. He shared these tips:
Know how the policy cycle works. The extent to which you work effectively with policy makers depends on the stage of the policy making process. The first stage is creating awareness of your issue, best timed to when policy is just percolating.
In the second stage you get a policy issue on the agenda.
In the third phase of the policy making process people are down to considering ways to solve the problem.
In the fourth stage, politicians take over the process and begin their compromises and negotiation. In the fifth stage, policy evaluation begins.
Know how to access and use policy brokers and networks. Find out who is concerned about your issue, and how they could help you disseminate it. What are the interest groups? How can you get your issue out on the internet? Know who produces influential blogs and newsletters.
Remember that the impact of policy research is often indirect. Things don’t happen overnight. Policy change occurs downstream, over time, in a cumulative change process.
Consider the dimensions of your message. Your issue needs to fit with the policy cycle. It also should fit with the values, structures, and capacity of the institution you're trying to influence. Does your state have heavily centralized control over school districts? Or are the districts more loosely confererated?
Know your policy users’ institutional and practical context. Be available to consult as needed. Your help must be on time, when needed. When a policy window opens, that's your chance to jump in. But you only have a limited time before another issue becomes the hot topic.
Be available to talk to reporters. Know what kind of communication the reporter or aide or policymaker prefers. Face to face convfersation? Policy Briefs in print?
Know the characteristics of each of your recipient groups. What is their motivation to seek and use research? What are their resources?

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