Elevate, Engage, Activate: The Journey to Advocacy at PEPS 

By Sarah Bahn, PEPS Communications & Marketing Manager (Estimated reading time: 6 minutes)

A baby sitting on a blanket in a park looking at the camera with several babies and moms in the background. Photo credit: The Happy Film Company.  

For 40 years, PEPS has been a source of community and support for parents in the greater Seattle area. For many parents, their PEPS Group was the first outing they took with their new baby, the first space they felt they could share honestly about the challenges of adapting to parenthood, or the place they met friends they’d continue to gather with for years to come. The PEPS community is bigger than any single PEPS Group. The PEPS community is a network of parents, caregivers, volunteers, partner organizations, donors, and staff who care about building resilient families, connected communities, and equitable outcomes. 

In recent years, we’ve engaged in deep learning and reflection and developed a Strategic Direction to chart our future as an organization. Equity is central to our values, and we made the decision to embrace the strong community we’ve built by engaging in advocacy in pursuit of a more equitable society that better supports all parents and families. 

A (brief) history of advocacy at PEPS 

Prior to 2019, PEPS had not engaged in advocacy work. Limitations due to staff capacity, fear of straying away from political neutrality, and a lack of expertise about how to engage in advocacy as a 501(c)3 nonprofit led PEPS to avoid advocacy altogether. Through deep learning, reflection, and an organizational commitment to racial equity, it became clear that remaining neutral on issues and policies that impact families only furthers inequities. In 2019, we decided to embrace our responsibility to engage the large community of parents in our network to take action on issues and policies that impact parents and families. 

What’s happening in 2023? 

After several years of gathering community input and building up our advocacy infrastructure at PEPS, we’re excited to be engaging in another legislative session with experience from past years and newly acquired knowledge from our recent advocacy survey to guide our work. The 2023 legislative session started on January 9 and lasts 105 days, wrapping up on April 23.  

This year we’re focusing on three advocacy priorities:  

  • Protecting Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) 
  • Securing affordable housing investments 
  • Making childcare more affordable 

“I’m excited by the idea of thousands of PEPS families banding together to make daily life easier for all families in our state. PEPS families know the power of gathering in community, and we know that caregivers and children deserve more support. Structural change is an important piece of the puzzle.”  

—Tracy Cutchlow, PEPS Board Secretary and member of advocacy workgroup

Centering equity in advocacy work 

Throughout the process of developing our advocacy framework at PEPS, we’ve used a strategy screen to ensure our efforts line up with our organizational values of equity, inclusion, innovation, authenticity, and community. Our advocacy workgroup also utilizes an equity and empowerment lens screening tool from Multnomah County when we select policy priorities for each legislative session to understand the equity implications of the policies we support as an organization.  

This equity and empowerment lens involves asking questions like:  

  • People: Who is positively and negatively affected by this policy and how?  
  • Place: How are public resources and investments distributed geographically?  
  • Process: Did the development of this policy meaningfully include or exclude people (communities of color) who are affected?  
  • Power: What are the benefits and burdens that communities experience with this policy? How is this policy shifting power dynamics to better integrate voices and priorities of communities of color?  

There are many incredible organizations in Washington State that have been leading advocacy efforts in support of children and families for many years. As PEPS enters the advocacy space, we’ve prioritized supporting and sharing about the important work of these organizations.  

“PEPS is collaboratively amplifying the work of groups who have subject matter expertise and have developed community-informed policy proposals that will lead to racial equity. PEPS offers a large community of parents who can quickly take action in support of these efforts.” 

—Molly Firth, PEPS Advocacy Consultant

The journey to engaging in advocacy at PEPS has been exciting, challenging, and a new experience for us as an organization. We are proud to have provided a community of support to so many families, and even when a family has finished their PEPS Group, we know they’re still part of our greater PEPS community. In the coming weeks as the legislative session continues (and in the years to come after that), we plan to tap into our community of support to elevate, engage, and advocate for policies that impact equity for families in our region.  

We hope you’ll come along for the ride with us! If you’re excited about the advocacy work we’re doing and want to learn more about our priorities, better understand the legislative landscape in Washington, and throw your support behind issues when it’s needed most, we encourage you to sign up for PEPS advocacy email updates. Once you’ve joined this list, you’ll be the first to know about important advocacy actions you can take to support Washington parents and families. Thanks for being part of our community.

About the Author
About the Author

Sarah Bahn (she/her) is the Communications and Marketing Manager at PEPS. She loves amplifying the incredible stories of the PEPS community through the PEPS blog, website, and social media. Sarah is passionate about the community-building power of nonprofits and loves to support our local organizations. In her free time, she enjoys taking long walks through Seattle neighborhoods and parks with a coffee in hand.

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