PSR members hone their skills with local advocacy trainings December 13, 2018

PSR’s Nuclear Weapons Abolition Program is working with chapters to conduct a series of advocacy trainings around the country, to develop critical community organizing tools and skills among PSR health professionals and advocates.  This training series was made possible through support from the Otterman Foundation and from PSR members. Chapters have customized these events to match their unique needs.

PSR’s first training took place in Tampa, Florida on October 13, with 25 trainees; the second took place in Hallowell, Maine on November 17, with 21 trainees; and the third training took place in Boston, Massachusetts, with 24 trainees.

The positive feedback we received was both humbling and a critical reminder of the need to provide such trainings at the local level. Our advocacy trainings consisted of sessions on direct advocacy to influencers, crafting letters to the editor and op-eds, effectively using social media, and messaging skills and strategies.

“Our chapters are doing phenomenal work, and we’re proud to be able to offer them vital trainings to help them effect further change at the local, state and federal level,” said Martin Fleck, PSR Nuclear Weapons Abolition Program Director. “We’re excited that attendees are already taking what they’ve learned and applying it directly to facilitating their on-the-ground and strategic goals.”

Several chapter leaders and training attendees confirmed this.

“We’re already using what we’ve learned,” responded Karen D’Andrea, Executive Director of PSR Maine.“We sent out an action alert this past week with some new messaging that was discussed during the training. Also, one of our Climate Committee members is trying her hand at using her newly learned skills for drafting an LTE from talking points.”

Greater Boston PSR Executive Director Anna Baker emphasized the critical opportunity to strengthen connections among chapters and engage health professionals in PSR’s ongoing work.

“Our Advocacy Training gave us a reason to engage a handful of new concerned citizens, in addition to our core group, on the topic of nuclear weapons abolition,” said Baker.“The ‘true measure of success’ for us is whether we continue to remain connected with the attendees to ensure they become/continue to be an active part of the movement, and so far it seems a handful of local doctors are interested in long-term collaboration with us, which bodes well. The training also gave us a good reason to connect with Washington PSR and National PSR, which strengthens our mutual networks and relationships.”

Dr. Lynn Ringenberg, a PSR board member and a founder of PSR Florida, highlighted the effectiveness of the hands-on, practical approach the training took.

“We plan to build from this training and offer a similar, but perhaps more targeted advocacy training in St. Pete from what participants wanted more training in: role playing and social media,” said Ringenberg. “My favorite part of the training was the role playing, where participants were given an issue to discuss with their Member of Congress. One person acted as the ‘senator’ while the other 3-4 people represented PSR on the issue, like fracking or nuclear disarmament.”

“We were very fortunate to have a communications expert lead our training,” noted D’Andrea of PSR Maine. “She works almost exclusively with health organizations in Maine. She did a great job bringing the message of focus and framing and allowed people to practice using a camera. Our training went beyond the basics of how to write an LTE or prepare for a media interview. We learned the science and art of messaging!”

“It was great having colleagues from DC and from Washington state come to Boston to share ideas and tactics for approaching our political leaders and the media,” said Matt Bivens, a PSR board member who serves as the chair of the Greater Boston PSR steering committee. “The advocacy training was really useful and inspiring for some of our members and we really appreciated the support. It’s also just good to network with our fellow activists from around the country!”

“These trainings are so important,” said D’Andrea. “Messaging is critical to many things we do, not just working with the media but also messaging to our members and the public about our work and for fundraising. I would highly recommend a training for all chapters along these lines. We only wish we had more opportunity for our group to practice or to have more trainings.”

Ringenberg also emphasized the value of these trainings for PSR chapters and health professionals.

“What made this training special and really valued was the time and effort that Martin (with national and chapter staff) and others put into doing it right,” said Ringenberg. “Not just lecturing, but also drawing the participants in to interactive role play and getting a real feel for how to be a strong advocate. I would encourage other chapters to have this type of training. It’s extremely important that health professionals feel comfortable talking to legislators, speaking in public or writing an op-ed on an issue they are passionate about. The medical voice is so valued by the public and our leaders.”

The next planned trainings in this series will be hosted by Oregon PSR on January 10 and PSR-Chicago on March 2. PSR-Iowa is planning a training at the end of March 2019.

In Tampa: role-playing an effective meeting with an elected official.

In Maine: learning how to successfully conduct a TV interview.

In Boston: small group discussions on how best to advocate for nuclear weapons abolition.

Want to learn more about our training series or find out more about a training near you? Reach out to Martin Fleck, Nuclear Weapons Abolition Program Director,

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