This year, the Table took deliberate steps to expand our work in ballot initiative and grassroots advocacy efforts. In her newly created role as Advocacy Campaign Manager for the Table, Sandy Griffin reflects on the Table's advocacy work and shares our vision of building long-term power and infrastructure in our state.
A lot of my new position right now is focused on ballot initiative work, of course, and really trying to build the infrastructure in Nebraska that involves putting the power back in local hands. We are working on putting the power back in local nonprofits rather than out of state consultants and having that infrastructure built up so it's not something that goes away whenever consulting firms leave. That's a huge goal of my work. But a lot of it is capacity constrained, right? We're looking at all these issues coming down the pipeline. It’s a huge thing to activate on for us and our membership, and that's something that I really want to be as helpful as possible with. And I would love to see that work expand more too, as we talk about municipal advocacy and local issues and a lot of those topics that come up when we talk about civic engagement that we know our nonprofits in our communities are really activated on.
I was really excited when I took this position because I think this is the first time that we as the Table have been really explicit on our involvement in ballot initiatives. Of course, we've been involved in the past, we've been in those conversations and provided core support and all of this other stuff, but I think this is the first time we've taken steps to actively build up this kind of infrastructure and to have more of a cemented role in all of this. We’re taking some of those things that would normally fall in the hands of out-of-state consultants and trying to redirect it toward local talent, local organizations, people who have relationships with community members. What we've seen in research, what we've seen in Nebraska, what we've seen in so many places, is that the most powerful advocacy can come from those trusted community relationships and local power, rather than just people out-of-state applying the same formula to every single community when we know that all of our communities are so vastly different.
As part of qualifying a ballot initiative and getting on the ballot, we have to qualify a bunch of different counties in Nebraska. For the Raise the Wage campaign, our goal was to reach out to Pawnee county. We were trying for those county qualification goals and to expand our rural outreach. You can't work on any ballot initiative, you can't do any of this work, without it being really statewide and without focusing on the impacts of a lot of different communities. Our goal was to have those conversations to take a step toward qualifying that county and thinking about strategy and taking steps towards qualifying more rural counties in Nebraska.
The thing that's really meaningful to me about our work is that as the Table, we're not focused on one issue. Single issue advocacy is so, so critically important and something that I'm really passionate about, but the umbrella of all the different kinds of work, all the different kinds of advocacy, all of the different kinds of communities that our members represent, is really meaningful to me. Having these collaborative relationships and being able to build up capacity and being able to have a role as the Table in all of these different fights is really meaningful to me because it's a huge opportunity. In Nebraska, anywhere, it's one fight after the other. It's a never-ending game of whack a mole sometimes. And it's really meaningful to win those fights, it's really meaningful to get that sort of progress. For me, especially, in thinking about the different issues that we deal with as the Table, a lot of the reason that I'm in this work in the first place and decided to pursue advocacy as a job, is because of the way I grew up with my dad. He was diagnosed with ALS when I was about a year old. It was really disheartening to watch that happen when there really wasn't a thing anyone could do about it. One of the things that really frustrated me about that experience was the fact that in a lot of regards, we had it easier than a lot of American families because my dad was covered under the VA, which is a form of single-payer that's inaccessible to most people in the U.S. I don't think I'd have memories of my dad if not for having access to that health care. Health care access, minimum wage, all of these different things are so intersectional and affect each other. How are you going to get healthcare if you can't make a living wage? How are you going to get access to this if you're being actively discriminated against? What happens in the workplace if you can't keep your health insurance? All of these issues are treated as very singular and siloed; they're all actually really intersectional. What I really appreciated about the Table is the acknowledgment of that intersectionality. We have to integrate the work together.