Advocacy and Connecting with Community
Round Table Discussion
Don Haas, Paleontological Research Institution
We live in polarized times. Climate change, fracking, evolution, and many more issues are mired in political conflict that are better understood through science and science education. Advocacy has a role in informing policy and educational practice, yet scientists are often wary of being labeled as advocates. We, of course, do not hesitate to advocate for certain things, like high quality science education. And, of course, there are issues where advocacy is not appropriate. Drawing the line is sometimes challenging, but generally there are clear distinctions between appropriate and inappropriate advocacy. Amongst the issues is the fact that most Americans say that they do not personally know any scientists. Important too, is the issue that approaches that are highly effective with one audience may backfire with another. At this roundtable, we will discuss how to avoid crossing inappropriate lines, how to advocate effectively, and how to engage with your community.
Advocacy and Connecting with Community -- Discussion
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This post was edited by Don Haas on Jul, 2017
A sort of disclaimer...
Different issues in different communities at different time scales invite different strategies for advocacy.
If you’re put off by the way I’ve been advocating for change within geoscience education within this community, recognize that I’m approaching this differently than I approach advocacy related to climate change or energy with communities with which my interactions are limited. In advocacy on issues that matter, it part of a long slog. For change within the geoscience education community, it is work within a community where I have deep roots. And, I don’t plan to go away anytime soon. It’s a series of very personal interactions over years.
Ideally, that’s at the heart of most of the advocacy work we do. Within the communities of NAGT, NESTA, GSA and the Rendezvous, it’s advocacy I’m in the middle of - I personally know on the order of half of the people at this meeting. I think most of those people generally respect me. That gives me a little more leeway to make people angry and still carry on the conversation.
I’d not come into a Rotary Club meeting that I don’t belong to and speak in the way I’ve been speaking at this meeting. But... I might aspire to speak to them that way a few years down the line. It’s very, very difficult to make people happy while you’re helping them understand things they don’t wish to understand. Don’t expect that.
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