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Frustrated with government dysfunction? Former insider has call to action

A key element of effective advocacy: “You’re more powerful than you think.”

PORTLAND, Maine — Susan Inches spent 25 years working on public policy, so she knows how the sausage gets made. She’s seen the process from the outside as an advocate and from the inside as a high-ranking official with the Maine State Planning Office and the Maine Department of Marine Resources. 

Now, she’s here to help citizens who feel lost when dealing with local, state, and national governments.

The thrust of her new book is summed up in its title: “Advocating for the Environment: How to Gather Your Power and Take Action.” 

Advocacy, she wrote, “is defined as asking decision-makers — corporate CEOs, politicians, and community leaders — to do what you want them to do. The main focus of the book is on shifting power from the elite to the people and how to do that. It shows how to work with stakeholders and decision-makers to plot a course for positive social change.”

Some skeptics will read those sentences and roll their eyes. They feel powerless and trapped in a dysfunctional system that generates anger and division but not solutions. Inches has some advice for them: do not despair.

Often a modest amount of outreach will lead to impressive results.

How modest? “Many Maine lawmakers have told me,” she wrote, “that a total of 10 personal emails or phone calls is all they need to persuade them that an issue is important.”

In her book, Inches offered a comprehensive look at the nuts and bolts of effective advocacy: pulling together a vision, bridging the left and right, working with decision-makers, and communicating with impact. 

She also offered many reasons why people should not give in to pessimism, one of which bears repeating: “You’re more powerful than you think.”

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