Words from our President: NASCSP’s True Colors

A recent episode of The Colbert Report poked fun at gas company, Talisman Energy’s latest public relations efforts to “greenwash,” as Stephen Colbert put it, hydraulic fracturing (fracking). In the wake of widespread public concern over the possible environmental impacts of fracking, Talisman released a coloring book for kids that illustrates the benefits of this controversial practice. The coloring book apparently features a “Friendly Fracosaurus” character who explains the mechanics of fracking in lively line drawings.

Struck by this interesting PR effort on the part of the drilling industry, I began to look around. Turns out all kinds of causes out there have a coloring book to peddle their political agenda. That’s right, a coloring book. The pro-frackers, the anti-Schwarzeneggers, and the Tea Partiers all have them. There’s even one by the Obama administration with nice platitudes about nationalized health care, freedom, and jobs. Hmmm. I’m not sure there’s really any political advantage to exploiting young children’s love of smearing colored wax on paper, but I guess it’s one way to get your message out there.

Getting our message out there is constantly on the minds of NASCSP staff and leadership. We’re working tirelessly behind the scenes to get our messages out and to impact important decisions in these difficult economic times. We’re continually combating inaccurate press about CSBG and WAP, advocating against funding cuts, and providing feedback to the Feds on proposed reforms to programs. Maybe we should try a coloring book.

NASCSP Goes Up the Hill

Our Government Relations team continues to inform legislators about the value of CSBG and WAP. But we’re ratcheting up our game again. Brad Penney has just signed on as our new General Counsel to work with us on policy issues. Additional expertise and more staff means a greater presence on the Hill and more opportunities to get our message out (or to distribute our coloring books).

 NASCSP Sends a Message

Last month I mentioned that the federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) wants to see some changes in how CSBG operates and asked for input from states, agencies, and partner organizations. So after several meetings with ACF leadership, and countless discussions with states and board members, NASCSP submitted a letter providing strong recommendations around strengthening state authority and flexibility and creating a stronger network.

At the same time, we were articulating the States’ perspectives on CSBG reform, NASCSP joined with the Community Action Partnership (CAP), to lay out our common priorities and concerns. A draft of the resulting policy recommendations was put out for comment on CSBG Network websites, several listserves, and at the CAPLAW conference.  Thanks, everyone, for the wealth of thoughtful feedback. Overall, the joint recommendations affirmed the CSBG Network’s desire to strengthen performance and accountability at all levels. Next, we need to solidify a plan, achieve consensus, and get buy-in from the CSBG Network.

Also, NASCSP and the Community Action Partnership will meet with ACF leadership soon to discuss the recommendations, chart some possible future joint efforts and set some timelines.  You’ll hear more about this soon, especially at NASCSP’s annual conference in September. There are many great opportunities for you, our members, to engage in the discussions and work.

 NASCSP Makes Friends

You may have noticed we’ve moved into social media to communicate and connect with members and spread the word outside the network. Our posts are informative, timely, and well-received. If you’re not already following us on Twitter and Facebook, do a search for us today “like” and “follow” us.

Social media, blogs, and opinion pieces all give us new platforms from which to counter inaccurate and even slanderous coverage that CSBG and WAP often draw. We also alert our 800-some followers about legislative and advocacy issues as they arise. And the communication doesn’t just flow in one direction. Many Community Action Agencies are very active on social media and it’s great to keep up with them and with what’s going on all around the network as well.

NASCSP Marches On

So why are we still emailing you an 8-1/2 x 11 formatted newsletter each month? Good question. Look for all the good stuff you’ve come to expect and more to migrate to a blog in the coming months, giving you up-to-the-minute information about all that’s going on in the network, as well as interesting articles to fill you in on the latest best practices, resources, and trainings.

Thanks for letting me try out our new coloring book communication strategy on you. I trust you see how much we’re doing here at NASCSP to advocate for low-income people on every front. The most important colors to fill in though, aren’t any new technologies or partnerships. They’re you, our members. Without your engagement in the discussion, sharing ideas, proven practices, insights, data and tireless advocacy in your spheres of influence, the picture is incomplete. When all the crayons in the crayon box are blended together they enhance the impact of the picture. What was once a basic picture, full of potential yet missing something, becomes a vibrant work of art when everyone lends a hand… er, crayon.