November 18, 2021

Advocating for Kindness

This post was last updated on September 29, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.

On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

At Florida Policy Institute (FPI), our values are our north star. They guide our work and reflect who we seek to be: we pursue equity, lead with integrity, share power, and act with kindness. The following reflection is part of FPI’s new “In Our Words” series, the goal of which is to make space for those stories and experiences that help shape people’s outlooks on policy and government.

“I am not interested in working on policies.” “There is so much I do not understand about our current policies, so I am not qualified to advocate for better ones.” “Policy work just isn’t for me.” These are things that I once believed to be true. The complicated language, mysterious procedures, and divide of political parties look like “keep out” signs for those of us who do not have a high level of legal or political expertise. But I do have a high level of concern and care for my community. My professional and personal expertise are enough to dismantle the barriers without forgetting to acknowledge the value of existing assets within my community. An interest in making sure everyone has an opportunity to thrive revealed a clearer understanding of policies as plans for how we will care for the community. I eventually embraced a new truth: It is impossible to care for my community without taking an interest in the policies that affect it.  

Framing policy as a means to care for the community is how we encourage more people skilled in kindness to engage in advocacy. Florida Policy Institute exists to bridge the gap between the policy process and impacted community, to override the “keep out” signs with accessible resources and tools. FPI summarizes current and proposed legislation, demystifies the state budget, and advocates as a non-partisan organization. FPI values kindness in the work process and our internal culture as much as we value it in the work that we produce. Advancing state policies that improve the quality of life for all Floridians requires us to be considerate of all Floridians, including ourselves. Kindness shows up when we build relationships with staff and community partners who respect the talents each of us has to offer. Kindness shows up when we publish research and advocate for policies that invest in the wellbeing of the people who live, work, and visit in our state.

I eventually embraced a new truth: It is impossible to care for my community without taking an interest in the policies that affect it.  

Too many of us feel like we do not belong in the space where policy debates and decisions happen. Even when we try not to have an interest in policy, it has an interest in us because policy impacts all our lives. We have a responsibility to create a policy space where the diversity of the people we deem qualified to influence decisions equals that of the people who are impacted. How we choose to care for our community should not be confusing, mysterious, or divisive. Policies (and policymakers, advocates, and the like) should be inclusive, generous, compassionate, and understanding because kindness is vital to achieving shared prosperity. I hope my work will help more people realize that caring about the community’s well-being is a valuable qualification and that advocating for kindness is enough to make a difference.  

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