When the budget season began, I did not know what to expect. I have done extensive research and advocacy on various policy topics since joining Community Solutions, but this was going to be a new experience. The budget plays a HUGE role in supporting programs across the state and influences administrative structure in different state agencies. Understanding the budget helps individuals understand the priorities of the state for the next two years. I knew this abstractly, of course, but I did not realize the totality of advocacy opportunities that could be leveraged during the budget season. In all my work navigating the complexity of the budget process, I am thankful for the support that my colleagues provided to me through their expertise.
My experience during this time was also unique because the Columbus Team planned a “CCS in Columbus visit,” allowing Cleveland colleagues to come down to see how the Columbus staff gets things moving. I had the privilege to lead meetings with state legislators to communicate information on their district using our fact sheets. This process was not only civically enlightening, but also exhilarating.
Strengths that my colleagues demonstrate internally became fully realized in the shared space with lawmakers and their staff.
Strengths that my colleagues demonstrate internally became fully realized in the shared space with lawmakers and their staff. It was amazing to see us work together to communicate effectively with legislators. Overall, I learned a lot from my experience in this state budget. In my ongoing advocacy efforts, I would like to highlight three takeaways that I obtained from my time navigating the state budget:
Civic engagement is the cornerstone of democracy
The need for public input and collaboration with legislators helps produce more fruitful insights that can benefit everyone. Seeing so many nonprofit organizations and community groups show up in testimony for Ohioans serves as a reminder of why I do this work. This is also evident in the ways that Community Solutions works to translate policies to help nonprofit organizations understand changes in the policy landscape, strengthening their advocacy efforts and stakeholder engagement.
Advocacy is a rollercoaster
One moment, you are straining to hear someone’s quiet testimony in a committee hearing, and the next you are immersed in a cacophony of sound emanating from a protest inside the statehouse. The budget season is long, and patience is important when navigating the ebb and flow of the budget process. Taking things one step at a time and being in the moment really paints a picture of what advocacy is all about.
The budget can be confusing
Many seasoned advocates still struggle to understand parts of the budget, and changes that occur can be confusing. The language used to explain line items often can be difficult to understand and capture information from when trying to examine the big picture of funding through agencies and organizations. Despite this, the best opportunity for learning is always through persistence, and leaning on your colleagues to help explain complex information.
Jumping into the budget was a great way to learn about how Ohio establishes priorities, funds different state agencies, and structures the direction of the state for the next two years.
Jumping into the budget was a great way to learn about how Ohio establishes priorities, funds different state agencies, and structures the direction of the state for the next two years. I learned a lot about how Ohio advocacy works on a state level, and it was amazing to see the ways that grassroots action and legislative engagement help create change. I look forward to the next budget season where I can dive into this work again to help advocate for a better Ohio.