Abstract: (WITHDRAWN) Paths to Policy Change: Three Case Studies of Policy Advocacy for Children and Youth in California (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

(WITHDRAWN) Paths to Policy Change: Three Case Studies of Policy Advocacy for Children and Youth in California

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Amy Conley Wright, Associate Professor and Director, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Sheldon Gen, PhD, Associate Professor, San Francisco State University
Background and Purpose: Children and adolescents are deeply influenced by policy, yet do not participate directly in the policy making process. Given their simultaneous lack of influence and dependence on public provisions, children rely on adults to be their advocates and achieve the best possible public policy. Yet strategies for policy advocacy by nonprofit organizations have largely been based upon trial and error, rather than a theoretical and empirical base.

Methods: Interviews were conducted with 31 nonprofit organizations’ policy advocacy managers in California, and their accounts were substantiated and supplemented with organizational document analyses and media audits. These data were complemented by q-methodology, in which respondents rated statements of advocacy tactics, to uncover their underlying strategies. Q-methodology employs factor analysis to identify underlying structures of viewpoints on subjective topics. The resulting six factors identify unique viewpoints of nonprofit organizations on the processes of policy change and how they seek to influence those processes. Our interpretation of these factors compares them to existing theories in policy studies. This presentation will present case studies highlighting three advocacy campaigns using distinct policy advocacy strategies, by three different organizations.

Findings: Q-methodology reveals at least three distinct strategies, and many tactics, that child advocacy nonprofits employ to represent their consistencies, and those strategies are grounded in theories of policy change. The inside-outsidestrategy used by Children Now in their education finance reform brings together the inside tactic of public lobbying with the outside tactic of mobilizing public opinion and resonates strongly with policy streams theory. The public lobbyingstrategy used by Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in their “Books Not Bars” campaign to replace the state’s youth prison system is grounded in institutionalism, the traditional view of policy making that sees power in the policy making process as concentrated in government players who must formally select policies. The institutional partnershipstrategy, used by the California Youth Connection that involves linking youth in foster care with legislators to advocate for reforms to child welfare policies, aligns closely with the public participation literature and coproduction concept in which service beneficiaries participate in the delivery of public services.

Conclusion and Implications: California is often considered a policy innovator, and creative advocacy by nonprofit organizations has resulted inpolicy changes in the areas of education, child welfare and juvenile justice, as highlighted in this presentation. The presentation fits the conference theme by building the empirical and theoretical basis of advocacy, which is a central method of social work practice yet has been a relatively neglected area of research. The presentation is intended to highlight both practice and scholarly implications by linking nonprofits’ practices with theories from policy studies. It should appeal particularly to those interested in the “organizations and management” topic areas as well as the “child welfare,” “crime and criminal justice” and “adolescent and youth development” due to the focus of the case studies. Its use of q-methodology in nonprofit studies might also make it appealing to those interested in the “research design and measurement” topic.