The Science of Advocacy: A Little Opposition is a Good Thing

An increasing focus on the science of learning is making a difference in classrooms across the country. To tap the similar potential of bringing a scientific mindset to the complex work of education advocacy, FutureEd has partnered with 50CAN to establish AdvocacyLabs, an initiative combining lessons from rigorous academic research on advocacy with data from a wide range of education advocacy campaigns. The goal is to provide insights into the most effective ways to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable students in the nation’s schools and colleges.

A Little Opposition Is a Good Thing and Other Lessons from the Science of Advocacy is a compendium of 17 advocacy lessons drawn from the most significant academic studies of advocacy over the past 40 years, together with interviews with leading researchers on advocacy techniques, discussion questions, and a robust bibliography of sources and resources. The authors have designed the report to be immediately useful to practicing advocates.

The 17 lessons are as follows:

  • A Little Opposition Is a Good Thing 
  • The Hardest Changes to Secure Are the Modest Ones 
  • The Powerful Aren’t as Powerful as You Think 
  • Persistence is Power 
  • Begin with Betrayal 
  • To Jumpstart a Big Movement, Start Small 
  • Either Everyone Ends Up Participating or No One Will 
  • If You Want People to Stay, Ask Them to Sacrifice 
  • Movements Ride on Waves of Tactical Innovation 
  • Effective Lobbying Doesn’t Look Like Lobbying 
  • Information Is Free, Organized Information Is Expensive 
  • Credibility Carries the Day 
  • Creating a New Frame Is Easy, Adoption Is Hard 
  • You Can’t Earthquake-Proof a Cause 
  • Zeal is the Side Effect of a Potent Cause 
  • Big Change is Regressive Unless Democratic
  • How to Win Even When You Lose 

Written by 50CAN Chief Executive Officer Marc Porter Magee, the report explores such questions as: What kind of goals should advocates aim for in campaigns? How does one recruit people to a cause? What does effective lobbying look like? How long should an advocacy campaign last? And what are the biggest mistakes to avoid in advocacy work?

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