Set your result
- Define the results you would like a legislative change to accomplish. The Center for Community Investment’s Defining a Shared Priority: An Introduction can help you do this.
Assess existing conditions
- Begin by reviewing city laws relevant to your challenge or identifying a knowledgeable local person (legislative aide, current or former city staffer, current or former elected official, community advocate or leader) who can identify laws that are currently on the books and assess their efficacy.
- If an existing law could be made more effective, that should be your legislative target. It is usually easier to make a law work better than to get new legislation passed.
- If there is no law, or existing legislation is creating inequitable outcomes, you will likely need to design new legislation.
Research new ideas
- Reach out to colleagues and partners to draw up a list of how other places have solved similar problems.
- Review case studies. A few great resources are Local Housing Solutions, Shelterforce, Next City, City Lab, and National Fair Housing Alliance.
Though model programs and best practices can give you ideas and show local officials what’s possible, they don’t always translate well across political, legal, and cultural contexts, so you need to pick apart the strategies you like to understand what will and will not work in your context.
- Identify how you would like to amend an existing law or design a new one.
- Check in with a local lawyer to make sure your legislative strategy is not preempted.
- Conduct interviews with local leaders or researchers and/or complete a literature review to understand what it will take to succeed.
- Make sure your strategy will advance your results or priorities.
Analyze the equity impacts
- If you are not already working with or part of groups representing impacted residents:
- Meet with community partners, local leaders, and residents to talk about potential strategies and their unintended consequences. Make sure you analyze how this change will potentially benefit or harm people and communities that already bear the brunt of inequitable policies, including disinvested neighborhoods, communities of color, and immigrant communities.
- If possible, get affirmative consent from community partners, local leaders, and residents to pursue your strategy. Simply presenting information does not mean you’ve gotten their agreement.
- Analyze how other groups may benefit or be harmed by the change you seek. If they are not already part of the process, reach out to include them in your discussions.
Name your legislative change
- In 1-2 sentences, describe the legislative change you seek.
- Make sure that you are following appropriate lobbying guidelines. In particular, if you work for a nonprofit organization, you’ll need to assess the types of activities you can legally do to advance legislation. For more information, see NonProfit Quarterly’s Advocacy and Lobbying Guide.
Once you’ve identified the legislation you want your community to change or adopt, you’ll need to develop a strategy that’s specific to your context. Each jurisdiction has a process they use for amending or adopting new legislation. If you don’t know where to start, some helpful general legislative resources are: