Grantee Spotlights

COVID-19 Stories: Going Virtual with Advocacy


The Minnesota lawmaker was surprised. On a Zoom session with a hundred people listening, a student with eight siblings and only half that many computers at home had a question for her.

How, she asked, was the state Legislature going to help students like her keep studying through weeks and weeks of untested distance learning?

The exchange took place during an annual advocacy day, only this year it was a totally virtual experience, due to COVID-19. EdAllies, an educational advocacy organization, joined the Coalition of Asian American Leaders in hosting panel discussions and small-group breakout sessions between stakeholders and legislators, including the governor and students.

When legislators held hearings on education issues, teachers and advocates testified from their living rooms, including EDAllies’ policy manager Michelle Koffa (photo above).

“We’ve really had to shift,” said Josh Crosson, EdAllies’ executive director. “Advocacy groups have spent a lot of time thinking: What levers of change still exist?”

Their campaign unfolds as nonprofits everywhere brainstorm how to master virtual advocacy amid social distancing. Congress, legislatures and city councils are meeting remotely, if at all, and more conversations may be taking place over the phone or in virtual backrooms.

EdAllies quickly narrowed its agenda to issues that are "authentically" related to COVID-19, Crosson said — making sure the crisis and response don’t add to existing racial and economic disparities in education, and making sure classroom standards aren’t lowered.

His hope is that some of the virtual advocacy sticks after the crisis, if it works. “Normally, we spend a lot of time traveling to different meetings,” he said.

About The Joyce Foundation

Joyce is a nonpartisan, private foundation that invests in evidence-informed public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region.

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