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Working with activist groups
IN a sense, most people are activists. They are active in their workplace. They participate in community projects and attend sports events. They may even write or phone their Congressional representative, once in a while.
But in recent years, the term activist has come to apply more specifically to individuals and groups who involve themselves as a matter of course in the public policy process. These are the people, outside the circle of elected and appointed officials, who set the nation's political agenda.
These activists take many shapes and forms. There are single-issue groups, which, as the name implies, coalesce around a given issue--e.g., capping insurance rates in a particular state, opposing legalized abortion, or ensuring the passage of a specific worker health benefit. When the issue is resolved, these groups often disband.
The average public relations executive, however, is likely to spend more time working with public interest and consumer groups representing broader constituencies.
These are institutions or organizations, in existence for some period of time, which advance the interests of a particular segment of the population (such as the American Association of Retired Persons) or advocate a given perspective. This second type of public interest group--that with a particular point of view--is exemplified by the country's environmental organizations: the National Audubon Society, the Conservation Foundation, the Sierra Club, and National Wildlife Federation, just to name a few. Each group approaches the task differently, but they share the overall goal of preserving and enhancing the environment.
Why take on this challenge?
It has been estimated that there are some 2,500 consumer and public interest groups in this country. That is probably a conservative number. Each of us, on a daily basis, interacts with, or is influenced by, one or another of these organizations.