Now, let us picture Tenzing, a bright young kid from Toronto, wants that cool Nintendo DS as his Losar gift. So what does he do? Being the intelligent kid he is, he comes up with a meticulous plan. First, he will approach his parents as they are the ones who will purchase the device for him. He tells them that he would volunteer every weekend at the community centre and even get better grades. He informs them about the new educational games on this gaming platform and how these games have led to significant improvement in children’s IQ. Secondly, he goes to his grandparents and promises them that he would visit the monastery with them every month. After a day or two of making these “deals”, Tenzing’s parents get him his Nintendo DS. The above example encapsulates the essence of a successful lobby effort.
What is lobbying?
Lobbying is essentially to convince (or lobby) the decision makers why they should consider your platform (“ask”). To be successful at lobbying, it is imperative you know what you want or what your ask is. How can decision makers help you if they do not know what you want? SFT Canada had arranged a pre-lobby training session with a generous Tibet supporter and Government Relations Professional from Hill & Knowlton (Public Relations Firm) who mentioned, first and foremost, that most lobbying are unsuccessful due to a lack of definite purpose leaving behind a more perplexed decision maker. As Tenzing demonstrated in the above example, he had one goal – to get the Nintendo DS. The next step to a successful lobbying is to come up with a strategy i.e. to be cognizant of the intended person’s sensitive beliefs, his/her stakeholders and the circle of influence. The final step is to be relentless and never waver while consistently working towards building a constituency of support to further strengthen your case. Referring back again to the Tenzing, he came up with a strategy by talking to his grandparents, promising to bring home better grades and volunteering while also showing the educational benefits of his gaming device. This strategy combined with his persistent efforts effectively helped him achieve his intended goal within two days.
On March 2 and 3, members of SFT Canada and CTAO (Canadian Tibetan Association of Ontario) met with various MPs (Member of the Parliament) and their staff from the different parties at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. This was part of an international lobby effort organized by Tibet Support Groups across the globe – US, Europe, Australia and India.
As for support on Tibet and our cause, the degree of support from the MPs varied across the political stripes – some were passionate and deeply cared for our issue while others were happy sitting on the fence and while trying to convince us with their political jargon – “there should be open channel for dialogue”, “we do not want to hurt their feelings”. During these discussions with the MPs, the lobby team conducted itself professionally irrespective of the MP’s stance on Tibet. For our supporters, we let them know our appreciation and thanked them for their continued support. As for others, we had great conversations and promised to follow them up with more information. It was an encouraging sign that some of these MPs were unaware of some issues and were willing to further discuss about it in the near future.
Tibetans and Tibet supporters should definitely be encouraged by the lobbying efforts. This was a time to thank our supporters while introducing ourselves to new MPs who were interested in our cause. Now, it is our responsibility to follow up these MPs and make them “move the ball” so to speak. This is crucial as our friend from Hill & Knowlton mentioned how we are trying to build a relationship here for a long journey which will will require patience and perseverance on our part. Although our struggle for independence may seem like one such journey, one should be mindful of the recent developments in Middle East and Africa. This still does not mean we sit back and rest on our achievements so far while hoping for such a revolution to occur in China. It means we continue to be more strategic whether that is using social media like they did in Egypt to generate more support abroad while keeping in touch with the activities in China and Tibet. Every step we take in this journey echoes in the hallways of the Communist Party headquarters and causes sleepless nights to their members. Lobbying in Parliament Hill was just another such step.
See you in the March 10 rally!
For more photos from Tibet Lobby Day 2011 in Canada, visit our Facebook Page: www.Facebook.com/SFTCanada