Building Our Advocacy Muscle: Navigating Tough Situations to Achieve Values-Based Policy & Systems Change

Our sector has a critical role to play in values-based advocacy. This session will build upon themes of social justice and social action discussed earlier in the day and draw on lessons from history to build solutions to today’s toughest problems. Whether it’s the crisis at the border Southern Arizona is currently experiencing, the gun violence epidemic, or discrimination in the child welfare system, we all are grappling with challenging issues in our communities and are living in difficult times that require us to stand up for solutions. 

But sometimes living our values and our missions puts us at odds with key stakeholders like donors, community members, policymakers, and others. Gain tools and advice for managing through those tough situations. And identify opportunities to collectively lift up the Alliance’s collective federal policy platform, which is tackling some controversial issues.

Pre-Conference Assignment: Think of times when you were caught in political crosshairs when advocating for an important values-based issue in your community, whether it was with donors, board members, your community, or policymakers. What was the scenario? How did you navigate through it? What did you learn? What worked and didn’t work? Be prepared to discuss.


Study Tour: Jewish History Museum and Holocaust History Center
A study tour of the Jewish History Museum and Holocaust History Center, located in a historic neighborhood on the southern edge of downtown Tucson, will set the stage for the conference. The center explores the histories and contemporary experiences of Jewish people and other traditionally marginalized communities in Southern Arizona and beyond. The center includes a contemporary human rights gallery, which hosts annual rotating exhibitions that highlight present-day human rights violations and issues of social justice.

The current exhibit, ASYLUM / ASILO, seeks to weave a dialogue from the personal histories of individuals who have fled horrific situations in their home countries only to face an asylum system on the US-Mexico border turned into chaos by the government’s own making. The museum is dedicated to its work of strengthening connections across the communities of Southern Arizona and using the past as a tool to pave the way toward a more just and peaceful future.

Facilitated Debrief
After touring the museum, participants will engage in a facilitated tour debrief, thinking about and discussing the following questions:

  • What can we learn from the Holocaust and other tragedies in history that have lessons for our current moment?
  • How does our sector’s work intersect with social issues and social movements?
  • What are our responsibilities as leaders to lift up these issues and promote change?
  • How have these patterns manifested in the crisis at the border, that currently plagues Southern Arizona and many other parts of the country?
  • How is your organization dealing with and talking about immigration?

Facilitator: TBD

Values-Based Policy: Building Our Advocacy Muscle
This session will focus on building our advocacy muscle and learning to grapple with the tough political decisions that help us advance equity and social justice. As chief executives, our paramount responsibility is to advocacy and changing the systems and policies that impact our communities.

Facilitated by the Alliance Senior Director of Government Relations Ilana Levinson, this conversation will connect the themes from the study tour to the realities facing our communities today. In addition, there will be a facilitate a panel with three CEOs from the Alliance network, who will bring their honesty and experience to the group. Together, we will explore the ways in which they have promoted values-based advocacy at the local, state, and federal levels. Each CEO will begin by presenting a five-minute case study, followed by a facilitated conversation and questions from participants.

In the last 45 minutes, participants will break into smaller groups, based on their priority issue area for policy and systems change. They’ll learn and share with one another, sparking ideas for action and tools to navigate challenges.


  • How do we manage/control the situation when we know our advocacy message may be at odds with key stakeholders, such as donors, policymakers, etc.?
    • How have our panelists run into this?
    • What mistakes did they make that we can all learn from?
    • How did they succeed?
  • What are the key issues the Alliance is addressing (gun violence, kids at the border, and discrimination in the child welfare system), and how can we raise our collective voice?
  • What do you see as our sectors larger role in these conversations? Are we succeeding at being out front on the issues that matter to us?


  • Eric Schindler, CEO, Child & Family Resources
  • Michael Hopkins, CEO, Jewish Family Service of San Diego
  • Additional panelists TBD

“Eff” Ups Night
Be brave and share your stories of professional failure. Reflect on business moves that didn’t go quite as planned in order to realize improvement and innovation. Participants will share their fateful stories—bad decisions, missed opportunities, episodes of poor execution, and pivots that never paid off.

Part serious, part fun, and complete with libations, this session will put a positive spin on failure to encourage risk taking and innovation. As you recall your misstep, make sure to note what you’ve learned.

Change Leadership
The final day of the conference will be devoted to change leadership. This is based on a recent Alliance Executive Leadership Conference survey. Thank you for your feedback.