The Building Blocks

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In this section:

Strategies for Action


Set your result

Assess existing conditions

  • Meet with the department or agency staff who are responsible for implementing the regulation. Seek to understand the context of your challenge and why it exists. This information will help you figure out where you need to put pressure to make change. This is also an opportunity to feel out whether the department or agency staff would like to see a change. Some questions to ask:
    • Why does this regulation exist? Is it based on legislation, or is it simply a departmental regulation?
    • Why does this regulation exist? Is it based on legislation, or is it simply a departmental regulation?
      • If the regulation is not working as designed: What are the constraints or challenges getting in the way?
    • What would it take to change the regulation? Make sure to find out whether changing the regulation will require a policy change.
    • Who is responsible for making the change?
  • Meet with people outside the department or agency who are affected by the regulation to understand their experiences and the consequences of the current regulatory system. This information will be helpful down the line when you need to build a case for why you want to see a change. Some questions to ask:
    • How does this regulation impact your work?
    • What are the outcomes of this regulation?
    • What changes are needed to make this regulation advance our results and priorities?
    • What would it take to change the regulation?
    • Who is responsible for making the change? Who would be willing to support this change?

Research new ideas

The above conversations may generate enough information to make good decisions about what changes are needed. But if the information is insufficient, you can dig deeper.

  • Reach out to colleagues, partners, and experts to draw up a list of other agencies or departments with similar regulations.
  • Unlike legislation, programs, or funding streams, there is less readily available information about regulatory changes, so it’s best to reach out to people with regulatory expertise. Local people, former or current legislative aides, agency staff, or politically savvy leaders may be your best bet. Other groups such as Local Housing Solutions, ChangeLab Solutions, National Fair Housing Alliance, and Center for Community Progress are also potential resources.

Hot Tip

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 regulation or design a new one.
  • Check with a local lawyer to make sure your ideas conform to existing laws.

Analyze the equity impacts

Some of the nitty-gritty details of government regulations can go over people’s heads or create more confusion. You’ll need to assess what level of engagement will be productive for partners, residents, and community leaders. In general, you should err on the side of inclusion, and you should always do your best to think through unintended consequences. Remember to be accountable to the people who are most impacted by the issue. If your work results in harm, take ownership of the role you, your organization, or your partners played and take steps to fix it.

Name the change you would like to see

In 1-2 sentences, describe the regulatory change you seek.