Public Policy Advocacy Projects
Effective Leadership Program
May 2009


Katrina and Rita did not just physically destroy, it made even clearer the serious deficiencies and fault lines in Louisiana's social, economic and political landscape. One of those deficiencies - the lack of support for the development of leaders, especially those of color – is the reason this Program was created.

Arguably other deficiencies are even more pressing: on-going failures, in the face of patent need, to provide adequate support for public education, decent and safe housing (including rebuilding homes in those areas most directly affected by the Hurricanes), health care, economic opportunity, and the environment.

Fundamentally, these are matters of social justice…better said, social injustice. Katrina and Rita demonstrated – especially in the continuing aftermath of failures to restore New Orleans and other devastated Gulf communities – that Louisiana's public policies and practices, and the public will that supports them, are themselves seriously deficient and, still warped by racism. Consequently, only inadequate responses are possible to immediate crises and, over the longer term, to injustices of longer standing.

Ask yourself: if Katrina and Rita had skipped Louisiana and, instead, decimated Galveston and Houston (predominantly white cities) would not massive state, as well as national, resources have been devoted to rebuilding both in short order and until the jobs were done? That 'no' is all but unutterable says volumes.

In short, effective public policies in Louisiana need to be changed and sufficient public support must be built on behalf of sound policies and of the decision-making to implement them – so that the State's citizens are equitably served.

This Program would be seriously lacking if it did not connect these challenges to its central message – that leadership is a way of being. The effective leader is aware of self, of one's obligations to serve and to find the leadership in others, and to respond to obvious and critical societal needs. The Program would fail, too, were it not to realize and capitalize on the fact that many of the Fellows in this first class are already deeply engaged in public policymaking and advocacy1. 1

For the sake of clarity, we suggest that Policy Advocacy is a type of public policy communication that states and supports an issue position with informed arguments. The goal of policy advocacy is persuasion. Persuasion requires two essential features. First, a clear, compelling and contentious (there needs to be some policy controversy for persuasion to matter) position needs to be defined. Second, a set of informed, engaging and targeted arguments is communicated that will supports the position and can build public and political will to act. Informed arguments are ones that substantiate claims through statistics, logic, and authoritative sources.

What the Program needed was to structure a public advocacy component for the Fellowship that acknowledged the problem and directed some part of the Fellows' in-program energy and talent to its resolution. But we needed to fashion the component in ways that were a) real enough to be worth Fellows' efforts, b) were consistent with our emphasis on values in leadership development and effectiveness, c) honored the fact that this is an in-service Program (Fellows remain in their jobs across the year), and d) might also have actual and positive impacts.

© 2008 Southern University (Baton Rouge)