Why we advocate, part I: Goodwill-Easter Seals’ efforts at the state Capitol

Learn how Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota’s advocacy efforts take service a step further.

Deanna Smiley Gulliford is Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota’s Director of Public Affairs. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, she came to Minnesota to get her college degree at the University of Minnesota and then attended the U of M’s Humphrey Institute to do graduate studies in social policy. After spending time as the Executive Director at Big Brothers/Big Sisters in Terra Haute Indiana, she returned to Minnesota and has been with Goodwill-Easter Seals for eleven years. In 2015 her efforts helped us engage with 110 elected officials and members of the administration and got 189 of our program participants involved in advocacy activities.

Here, she talks about how our advocacy efforts have taken on a more significant role and why our advocacy work is so important to us:

Several years ago Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota was encouraged to take a more significant role in the public policy arena. We were told that providing services was good, but that we also had a great deal of experience and expertise to share – and that the voices of the people we serve were absent from the decision-making table.

So, Goodwill-Easter Seals made a conscious decision to be more actively engaged in public policy. What does this mean as we put it into practice? It means that we connect with other stakeholders in coalitions throughout the state on issues of importance to us and our program participants. It means that we engage elected officials both in their district and at the capitol. It also means that we prepare staff and program participants to find their own voices in shaping public policies.

We believe that it is our responsibility as a large employment service provider to work toward systems change. Because of our extensive direct service experience, we have valuable insight into what does and does not work in the employment services arena.

Our goal is that the public policy and advocacy efforts of Goodwill-Easter Seals will be a leading force in the state for improving outcomes related to workforce development and other anti-poverty policies. We believe that everyone who wants to work should have that opportunity. And, to the extent that there are any systems impeding that goal, it is our job to help remove them.