Building A Personal Advocacy Plan

We have a new Congress and a new Administration. There are many reports speculating about what they will do in their first 100 days.

I am asking myself, what else can I do in the first 100 days for people with diabetes? To be effective, I’m going to need a plan.

DAPC will be hosting a session before The Diabetes UnConference in Las Vegas on Friday, February 10 from 3-5pm at the Westin Las Vegas to help individuals set their advocacy goals for those 100 days. We would love to see you there (This session is open to the public and it’s free!). But if you can’t be there, you can use this outline to build your plan from home.

Health Policy – What Matters Most

The Diabetes UnConference is powerful through the group’s ability to talk passionately and respectfully about sensitive issues. Let’s create a parallel effort online with the same respect and passion. Follow the challenges below to help define your personal advocacy plan.

The goal is not to find the one thing on which we all agree. Rather to inspire each other to act from our individual passions. Together our actions will aggregate to be a more robust chorus of people calling for better diabetes policy.

The Home Edition of Our Game

When I was a kid and home sick from school, I watched game shows. They all closed with a mention of the game’s home edition. I have a home game too, and it is simple. All you will need are passion, a pencil, and paper. I liked the shows where there were a series of little games that progressed through the show. So a series of challenges follows.

I will ask you to write things in these challenges. I hope you will actually take pencil to paper. Writing helps focus the mind. But writing and sharing are not the same things. We all know about cyber security. You can keep what you write to yourself. If you choose to share your thoughts, do so within your comfort zone. As examples, I am sharing what I wrote here.

For those who do want to be part of a first 100 days diabetes policy advocacy communty, please do so on DPAC’s Facebook page or in the comment section of this post.


Challenge I: Introduction

Game shows always introduce their contestants. Typically just two or three sentences. So in sixty seconds, scribble down your introduction. Include where you are from and your relationship with diabetes.


I am Bennet Dunlap from Bryn Athyn PA. My wife and I are proud to have raised four children here. Two of them have lived with type 1 diabetes for more than a decade each.


Challenge II: Who’s Good and Why

Quickly, write the name of a group that successfully influences policy. What do they do that makes them good? Maybe there are ideas you can borrow.

  • Are their policy asks specific?
  • Can an individual member measure her actions?
  • How does she show her community that she accountable for action?
  • Are the actions she commits to take a realistic expectation of her time?
  • How can her actions inspire others to take action too?


The NRA are experts at grassroots advocacy. Members appear motivated to engage and do so regularly. I don’t know how members track their personal activity. It seems that collectively they are excellent at motivating both themselves and peers with social media. Passion drives action and makes time for individuals to act.


Challenge III: Health Care and Diabetes

What is one thing you would most like to see be an outcome of the health care debate? Are you concerned that pre-existing conditions will make coverage impossible? Should young adults be able to stay on their parent’s plans, do you worry about closing the Medicare donut hole, or something else?

Please write this one thing down.


I worry about the repeal of ACA especially access to coverage for young adults like my kids who live with diabetes. I want them to be able to stay on our plan through college and as they start out in life. I worry that repeal may again allow insurers restrict coverage due to T1D being a pre-existing condition. 


Challenge IV: What Can I Do

Now, our game gets a little harder. Like Jeopardy, your answers need to be phrased in a specific way. Not as a question but as an “I can” statement.

In DPAC’s January Ask An Expert, Al Jackson encouraged advocates to focus on the Senate as an important advocacy target in the health debate. Let’s take his advice.

Starting with “I can,” write a reply to the following question:

What can I do that would make clear to my Senators the one outcome of repeal and replace that is most important to me?


I can reach out regularly to my Senators and share the value I place in insurance access for young adults. In the past few days the phone lines have been busy, and voice mail overflowing, so for the first 100 days, I will go old school and snail mail picture postcards to my Senators twice each week. I’ll send to both the DC and in state offices.


Challenge V: Refine

You now have the core of your personal plan. Now refine it.

Start by blending in the short introduction you wrote above. It will help your Senators see you as a real person and the where you live part demonstrates you are a constituent.

Next look at the things you identified as exceptional advocacy above under “who is good and why.”

  • Is your ask specific?
  • Once and done isn’t enough. How will you measure the actions you will take over the 100 days?
  • Being accountable to a friend is a powerful motivation to act – To who you will be accountable?
  • How will you inspire others with your work?
  • Be realistic, how will you do fit these actions into your busy life?


I will send separate cards for pre-existing and young adults on parents plans. I will send each Senator two cards a week. Each will start with a variation of the introduction above. The kids are motivated to engage and I will hold myself accountable to them with text photos of the cards I send each week. I’m confident they will call me out like nobody else if I don’t do it. I’ll challenge them to continue to share their advocacy actions with me. We are a competitive family and I look forward to some one-upmanship. To fit this extra effort into the schedule, I have bulk bought cards with Pennsylvania themes from Amazon and will write batches while relaxing with TV in the evening.


Final Challenge: Do it – and SHARE what you’ve done!

Doing is hard. Having a plan makes doing easier. Here is the picture I messaged to my kids to kick off my plan.

We’d love to see what you’ve chosen to do. Help inspire others to act by sharing your thoughts and ideas in the comment section of the page or on DPAC’s Facebook page. What will your first 100 days be like?