Citizen Challenge Workshop Success

Feb 1, 2011 by Kasha Ho

To kick off the 2011 Citizen Challenge, Kanu and Common Cause hosted a two-week workshops series on how to Find and Use Your Voice at the Legislature. The workshops were incredibly successful, informative, and good fun. If you missed the workshops in person you can watch the videos and check out the resources and information about how to present effective testimony and navigate the Capitol on our Citizen Challenge website.

Together we are carving out a space for citizen voices to be heard at the Capitol and for our shared values to be represented in the policies that affect our lives and this land. This legislative session we are calling on the people of Hawai'i to make two commitments:

  1. Watch One: Follow at least 1 issue at the Capitol from January through April
  2. Write One: Contact your representative(s) at least once during the session

Visit the Citizen Challenge page to join us and make our voices count!

Our first workshop, "Find Your Voice," was literally overflowing with people eager to learn how to make a difference in policy-making here in Hawaii. Thanks to our incredible Kanu Youth Fellows, the workshop included 65 Punahou students who set a tone of hope and carried with them the vision of our future.

Governor Neil Abercrombie opened the workshop with an inspiring message to come together in "common cause" to make change based on our shared values and with the spirit of aloha. Suzanne Marinelli, coordinator of the Public Access Room, gave us an entertaining and informative how-to lesson complete with tools and resources for navigating the Capitol.

Representative Mina Morita shared her perspective as a lawmaker on how to be an effective citizen lobbyist, including her experience working with Molokai students to introduce and pass the Bottle Bill. Deborah Zysman, Executive Director of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii wrapped up our panel with engaging tips from an advocate's perspective on gracefully and effectively representing your point of view with legislators.

The second workshop, "Use Your Voice," focused on the nuts and bolts of getting involved in the legislative process. Alani Apio, Kanu Hawaii's Board President, opened by offering a reflection that our government, and really all aspects of life, are based on relationships. We cannot expect good government without developing good relationships. Former Senator Gary Hooser carried on that theme, stating from his experience that successful lobbying is about three things: "relationships, relationships, relationships."

Jeff Mikulina, Executive Director of the Blue Planet Foundation followed up with tips on how to deliver effective written and verbal testimony, and Ann Davis and Jo McGarry from Hawaii Education Matters spoke about lessons learned from their successful efforts lobbying to end the school furloughs. Nikki Love, Executive Director of Common Cause, provided us a succinct overview of the legislative process and timeframes this session for getting citizen input heard at the Legislature.

We wrapped up this session with an opportunity for everyone to practice actually giving testimony and receiving feedback in front of a guest panel. Big thanks to Cherilyn for leading that exercise, and to the tireless Kanu volunteer team: Annie, Cathy, Carmille, Chaylah, Elena and Sharon for putting it all together.

Next up we'll be hosting weekly Rotunda Roundups every Thursday at 5:30pm at the Capitol Rotunda from February 3-April 28th. Each Thursday we will have an informal briefing and discussion on the status of bills being tracked by Common Cause, Kanu Hawaii, and our partners, followed by a walk around the Capitol and visits with lawmakers.

For this Thursday's Roundup, February 3rd, we'll be joined by the Surfrider Foundation's Stuart Coleman, and we will focusing on "getting a bill heard." Check the Kanu events calendar for details including topics and speakers for each week. We hope you'll come join us.


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