Policy + Advocacy
A core plank in how United Way engages individuals to be part of creating solutions is our policy and advocacy work at the community, state, and national levels. United Way Worldwide’s Policy Agenda, developed for every new session of Congress, provides national visibility and a platform to advance the priority issues agreed upon by the United Way network. The most recent agenda for the 116th session of Congress focused explicitly on strengthening and/or expanding access to programs to help close gaps in education, economic mobility, and health.
Many local United Ways have a long history of engaging in policy and advocacy work at the community and state level. This is aided by our infrastructure, which includes 32 state associations, some of whom work closely with the United Ways in their respective states to build and advance a common state policy agenda. Examples include the United Ways of Pennsylvania, Texas, and Florida. Across the network, United Way state policy agendas have commonly focused on improving access to high-quality early childhood programs and full-day kindergarten in education, expanding access to preventative services in healthcare, and expanding affordable housing. Other issues, like advocating for a minimum wage, closing gaps in education spending, or regulating predatory lending practices, are often specific to a particular state and local context.
Policy has a tremendous impact on individual and community outcomes because it shapes everything from the physical shape of our communities and cities to the allocation of resources. Advocating for policy change is one of the major tools that United Ways have to create systems-level change. Policy change can align and complement the strategic investments made in the community and has more potential to impact greater numbers of people than direct services.
Nearly every social and community inequity has roots in a policy or policies that disadvantaged some groups and benefited others. In the US, the burden of inequitable policies has significantly impacted communities of color and low-income communities. Given this reality, utilizing this lever is critically important for redressing previous wrongs, and scaling equitable change in education, economic mobility, and health.