Want to make your case? Junk the jargon!

That’s the message from Bruce Lesley, Executive Director of First Focus, a national organization that works for greater federal investments in children. I heard Lesley’s keynote speech at this morning’s breakfast event for Rhode Island KIDS COUNT.

Lesley has cred in the case-making business. This year and last First Focus and allies helped save the vital Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) from being wiped out in the new health care bill. He can also claim some credit for a broad federal spending turnaround, helping the President and Congress put more 2010 money where their mouths are on children’s issues. (I think there might have been an election in 2008 that had some impact, but still, even the right people need help to do the right thing.)

Lesley wants everyone who cares about kids to be as persuasive as possible, so he shared his methods for turning good ideas into the law of the land with the crowd of 500+ activist, nonprofit people and politicians on hand. First, share the information that shows the need. Then break down the silos between sub-interest groups and get them to collaborate on one issue at a time rather than presenting an impossible and disorganized wish-list. Build the will for change with hopeful, solution-oriented messages. Nail your message down with simple, strong words. (Words like “work,” “invest,” “our kids,” “future,” “healthy.”)

Lesley’s final advice: seize opportunities and celebrate victories, a mantra we heard often from RI Kids Count’s Executive Director, Elizabeth Burke Bryant in the course of our strategic planning work with Rhode Island KIDS COUNT last year.

Back at the office, I just discovered another great case-making tool at the First Focus research page: A LEXICON FOR CHILDREN’S HEALTH: Making Children a Priority in Health Reform. This 11-page reports, captures survey and focus-group research First Focus did in connection with last year’s fight to save CHIP, but most of it applies to any children’s policy issue. I wish more of my clients had this kind of message-shaping research on hand.

Thanks to the great Rhode Island KIDS COUNT team for making my morning!

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