Engaging members of Congress through the AbilityOne Congressional Champions Program
By Tatiana Peralta
Members of Congress are critical stakeholders, which is why we feel a sense of pride every time we add one of them to the ranks of the AbilityOne Congressional Champions Program. More champions mean more allies in our effort to create meaningful employment by supporting policy that positively impacts our mission.
SourceAmerica’s government affairs team works diligently to provide our member agencies with the right tools to develop relationships with their legislators and engage them in the process to become champions.
This year alone, we added 18 new members to the Champions list which was the result of combined efforts by our dedicated member agencies, SourceAmerica, and the National Industries for the Blind (NIB). This means we have a total of 160 champions to rally behind our efforts! While the Champions Program connects them to our cause, it also brings them closer to members of their community.
Creating change through the Champions Program
In our last blog post, we highlighted the role this program plays in our advocacy efforts. The Champions Program was established in 2002 by SourceAmerica and NIB. Its purpose is to recognize representatives and senators who show a commitment to the AbilityOne Program.
Public policy is a big deal. It has the power to create national change and harness employment opportunities for individuals nationwide. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act has had countless positive effects since becoming law in 1990. Still, a lot of work needs to be done to create a more inclusive world.
At its core, the AbilityOne Congressional Champions Program is one way we start to create change. It helps us build relationships with representatives and senators who support our cause and impact decision-making on Capitol Hill. While we ask for their support, we also keep the Champions informed on news regarding SourceAmerica and the AbilityOne Program.
Four steps to becoming a champion
We believe every member of Congress should be an AbilityOne Congressional Champion. And here’s a secret: many of them are just one or two steps away from becoming a Champion. It’s up to our member agencies to help get them to the finish line. These are the steps members of Congress must complete to join the Champion ranks:
- Visit with a member agency representative at the legislator’s district or Washington, D.C. office. The annual SourceAmerica Grassroots Advocacy Conference in our nation’s capital each year is a great way to cross this item off the list.
- Tour the member agency’s AbilityOne contract manufacturing or service contract site(s). This is a great opportunity for the member of Congress to see the Program in action and interact with the people who are benefiting from these jobs.
- Certify that the office supports the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act by using AbilityOne services or products in the congressional member’s Washington, D.C. or district office.
- Voice support through a communication on behalf of the AbilityOne Program. This can include a press conference statement, congressional record statement, or similar communication on social media.
Once all four steps have been completed, our government affairs team will help coordinate a plaque presentation and a press release announcing the addition of a new Champion.
Maintaining the relationship
Of course, the work doesn’t stop once a plaque has been presented. We love hearing how our member agencies and members of Congress build upon their relationship. At the end of the day, that’s one of the big benefits of this program. In addition to building a sense of community, the program connects people with the federal government while raising public awareness for the agencies and AbilityOne.
Continued engagement can include hosting legislators at future events or encouraging them to continue visiting AbilityOne sites. These are great ways to keep members of Congress informed about how the program is helping people in their districts.
Whether Congress is in session or on recess, SourceAmerica always has resources available to help our network engage with a member of Congress. If you’re with a member agency and would like more information on how to add your representative or senator to the Congressional Champions list, contact Ransom Holliday.