Connecting with Congress

Connect to Congress

It is crucial to first understand Congress. The Senate, made up of 100 members with two individuals from each state, deals with the responsibilities of confirming high-level positions, appointing members to various Congressional committees, and ratifying treaties. The House of Representatives has 435 members and takes on the responsibilities of choosing the President in the case of an electoral college tie, as well as initiating Congressional spending. Congressional members form committees and subcommittees around different areas of policy and expertise. Learn more from the FABBS Advocacy Handbook [PDF].

Courtesy of Scholars Strategy Network

Find members of Congress who share your interests and priorities, committee and caucus memberships, and important constituencies. Establish contact with your member through brief emails, engage with your member’s office on social media, call your member’s office, or meet with your member in person. If you meet with your member in person, conduct the meeting in a policy-neutral manner, and do not vilify opponents or opposing viewpoints. Communicate with transparency, be flexible, and actively listen when collaborating with policymakers to build meaningful relationships. After all, policymakers seek evidence and research from trusted partners.

Check out the Scholars Strategy Network’s Best Practices for Writing Useful Policy Talking Points to learn how to communicate with Congress clearly and confidently and start building relationships with policymakers. Or, consider joining the Research-to-Policy Collaboration, which can help connect policymakers to researchers with relevant expertise.

Resources for Connecting to Congress

Communicate with Government Agencies

Communicating with government agencies is similar to connecting with Congress. Find your allies, and treat policymakers as your partners in working toward a mutually beneficial goal. Build rapport with agency staff and develop productive, ongoing relationships with civic leaders at the agency level. Consider serving on review panels or expert commissions for greater influence, such as more input in what research is funded, and to become a reliable and familiar partner when agencies seek opinions on social policy.

Explore the Federal Register, the daily journal of the US government. The Federal Register is the official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of Federal agencies and organizations, along with executive orders and other presidential documents. It was developed with the goal of helping citizens understand the regulatory process and participate more readily in government decision-making.

Check out the Scholars Strategy Network’s Best Practices for Writing Influential Policy Fact Sheets to understand how to compel action from federal agencies. They can also help you learn to develop relationships to effectively connect your research to public policy

Draft Policy Briefs

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Policy briefs are an excellent relationship-building tool, and generating conversation with civic leaders is always the first priority in public scholarship efforts. When drafting a policy brief, target a specific audience of policymakers based on shared interests and priorities, and identify which agencies carry out policies in your area of knowledge.

Regardless of your audience, avoid highly technical terminology, reference lists, and long documents. Your policy brief should be one to two pages with clear section titles and embedded links. Consider asking non-professionals, like your family and friends, if your policy brief is easy to understand. You can also send your policy brief to the Scholars Strategy Network to be reviewed!

Check out the Scholars Strategy Network’s Best Practices for Writing an SSN Research Brief to learn more about writing a brief. Having trouble identifying a target audience, laying out action items, or generally looking for one-on-one help with the specifics of your brief? Contact the Scholars Strategy Network or contact FABBS.

Resources on Policy Briefs