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Biking & Walking to the State House: Organizing State Summits

Biking & Walking to the State House: Organizing State Summits

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Published by Mary Lauran C Hall
More and more advocates across the United States are organizing statewide bike and/or walk summits to push active transportation forward at the state level. On a recent Alliance Mutual Aid Call, we heard from advocates and experts in the field about best practices and tips on how to organize an effective summit.
More and more advocates across the United States are organizing statewide bike and/or walk summits to push active transportation forward at the state level. On a recent Alliance Mutual Aid Call, we heard from advocates and experts in the field about best practices and tips on how to organize an effective summit.

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Published by: Mary Lauran C Hall on Feb 03, 2014
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02/08/2014

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Biking & Walking to the State House: Organizing State Summits Alliance for Biking & Walking Mutual Aid Call

Wednesday, January 22, 2014
More and more advocates across the United States are organizing statewide bike and/or walk summits to push active transportation forward at the state level. On this call, we heard from advocates and experts in the field about best practices and tips on how to organize an effective summit.

Recap: Advice from Jason Jordan Principal Partner, Advocacy Associates and Center for Transportation Excellence
Reasons to have a State Bike/Walk Summit: • Change / advance a political agenda by directly engaging with elected officials. Summits are always political. • Build relationships with constituents, partners, and elected officials. • Set the stage for building year-long relationships with elected officials. • Build credibility of your organization. • Build visibility of your issue and leverage your work by involving alliances. • Educate, celebrate, motivate. How to Make the Most Impact: • Identify a timely ask. • Develop an outreach and communications plan. • Build district-based constituencies. • Drive points home through storytelling, messaging, and branding. • Influence other organizations in addition to the legislature. • Organize an event that reinforces your goals and strategic tactics. How to Build Political Influence Into Your Summit: • The legislative game is always based around geography: Use constituents as the connections and focus on district-based influence. • Make the schedule and office meetings as easy as possible for the participants. • Prepare and train advocates with materials, logistics, tell them what to expect, and how to prepare their story. • Develop and communicate a specific ask. • Raise visibility through shirts, buttons, etc. • Hold a celebration and time to debrief. • Build in a follow-up/ report-back mechanism to identify champions and challenges.

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Biking & Walking to the State House: Organizing State Summits Alliance for Biking & Walking Mutual Aid Call Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Recap: Advice from James Wilson Executive Director, Bike Delaware
Summit Basics: • State Summits are a central part of what you have to do as an advocacy organization, even if you start small. • The key is politics. If you aren’t doing politics, then you’re not doing your job. • Organize an annual Summit – if you don’t come back, you fall off the radar. • When? When your legislature is in session! • Where? In the state capitol. • Bring legislatures to the event to speak or take the Summit participants to the capitol. • Involve your state DOT. Walkable Bikeable Delaware Summit: • 2 years old. • Governor Markell has attended and spoken at both summits and has adopted its “Walkable Bikeable Delaware” language, including in last two State of the State speeches. • State House Majority Leader gave a quote on the state summit. • Just added the American Heart Association (AHA) to the Summit as a partner and cohost—not just a financial sponsor. AHA has many other items besides walking / cycling on their agenda, but at least for 2014, the Walkable Bikeable Delaware Summit is AHA’s advocacy / lobby day in our state capitol.

Recap: Advice from Melinda Barnes Executive Director, Bike Walk Montana
Tips for Organizing your First Summit: • Involve your DOT. Invite them to attend and have them lead break-out sessions. • Make sure you have an ask. • Put a planning committee together! Include people who have attended the National Summit if possible. Meet frequently and start planning at least 3-4 months in advance. • Utilize online registration. • Utilize your Board and/or volunteers. • Make accommodations beyond what you expect. • Plan a budget; add a contingency fee. It’s more important to get lots of people than to make lots of money. • Tap into resources within your state – there is a lot of expertise and knowledge. 2

Biking & Walking to the State House: Organizing State Summits Alliance for Biking & Walking Mutual Aid Call Wednesday, January 22, 2014
• Have a survey at the end of the day. Ask for a short testimony that you can use for promoting the next summit. • Schedule time for networking. • Have a ‘sharing table’ where people can bring information (trail maps, etc.) from their own community or organization to share. First Montana Bike-Walk Summit (2013) and Lessons Learned: • In Montana, the Legislature meets every 2 years. The Summit will be in the capitol on those years. On off-years, it will move to different cities around the states. • Draw upon the community where it’s being held for sponsorships; tap into resources within that community. • Try to incorporate mobile sessions to showcase good things in the community. • Lt. Governor was the keynote speaker in 2013. • Had 100 people attend $45 for members; $50 non-members. Utilize an early-bird rate and cut-off to encourage people to register in advance. Balancing the Bike / Walk Agenda: • If you have two tracks, don’t make both sessions related to biking. • Have sessions on multi-use trails. • Bring people in to talk about American with Disability Act (ADA) issues. • Have walking experts or initiatives: Safe Routes to Schools; prescription trails; walking advocates; health professionals.

Recap: Advice from Caron Whitaker Vice President of Government Relations, League of American Bicyclists
Tying your State Summit into the National Bike Summit and Getting the Most out of the National Bike Summit: • Research the background of the legislators you are meeting with. Find out what interests them. • Collect local stories. • Get support and testimonials from mayors. Invite them to the State and National Summits. • If you have time, schedule a meeting with your Governor’s lobbyist in DC. • Talk about your State Summit when meeting with your federal legislator (and vice versa).

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Biking & Walking to the State House: Organizing State Summits Alliance for Biking & Walking Mutual Aid Call Wednesday, January 22, 2014
• Get the list of National Summit attendees from your state and involve them in the planning of your State Summit. For example, ask bike shop representatives to reach out to the business community. • Always look for champions and think about your asks for them and activities to engage them in. For example, state elected officials are leading the Delaware delegation at the National Bike Summit.

Recap: Question & Answer
What if you’re organizing a Summit and it’s not in the state capitol? • Caron: Still have a legislative ask. Have a call-in day at the Summit: Use email and a Twitter campaign to mobilize your members, even if they aren’t at the Summit. Have participants schedule follow-up district visits when they get home. It’s still an opportunity to engage the legislators that represent that city. What should I do if the Summit is held in the middle of a high-profile campaign race? • Jason: Provide a platform for the candidates to make their pitch to advocates. Create a venue for the conversation, even if not a part of the Summit. For example, a town-hall forum on transportation, and it can be co-sponsored by your transit partners. What “skills” should we teach at the Summit? • James: Communication and messaging. Advocacy agenda asks. • Caron: Include a technical session for staff who can’t lobby, and bring in speakers on agency topics. Should we have speakers from other states or national experts? • Melinda: Use experts as long as their good speakers and can hit the topic priorities. Utilize panels for different viewpoints. It can be a benefit to see what’s happening outside your state, but not at the expense of prioritizing your states’ issues. How should I prioritize issues and develop an ask, especially in advance of the Summit? • Jason: The ask should be timely, even it it’s a lower priority. Make sure your ask is specific and simple. Your top agenda may not be the top legislative agenda. Build relationships into the ask and think about low-controversial visibility.

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Biking & Walking to the State House: Organizing State Summits Alliance for Biking & Walking Mutual Aid Call Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Recap: Top Take-Home Tip from Speakers
• Jason: Do it, even if it’s your first Summit; they are scaleable. • James: Have it at your state capitol and focus on state advocacy. • Melinda: Start at a level you can manage and start with a one-day Summit. • Caron: Share your state summit story with federal elected officials and vice-versa. • And, make it political!

Additional Resources
Summit organizing: • Guide to State Bike Summits (League of American Bicyclists) - The comprehensive manual on how to plan, create and market your next gathering of bike advocates. • Designing Accessible Events for People With Disabilities (Vera Institute for Justice) - Learn about the legal requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act when planning your next summit. • Conference Organizing Guide (Community Tool Box) - General information to organizing conferences. Bike/Walk Summit Programs:

• Montana Bike Walk Summit (2014) • Iowa Bicycle Summit (2014)

• Walkeable, Bikeable Delaware (2013) • Wisconsin Bike Summit (2012)

• New Jersey Bike Walk Summit (2014)

• Oregon Active Transportation Summit (2014)

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