How to Initiate Legislative Advocacy

Hollaback! NYC legislative briefing with city council members
Hollaback! New York City held a legislative briefing with city council members to discuss street harassment research conducted with Cornell University.

You can create change around an issue through legislative advocacy. When you conduct legislative advocacy, your goal is to work with government officials who can publicize the mission of your organization and partner with you on upcoming projects. Here are some ways that you can initiate legislative advocacy for your Hollaback! site.

  1. Write a letter about your organization and send the letter to your local government officials (ex. the members of the city council.) Check out this sample letter:
  2. Call the offices of these government officials to schedule appointments to discuss your organization in person. Follow up, stay in touch, and be persistent, even when your government officials are busy. Your goal should be meeting either with a government official or with an individual who works very closely with the official and has a significant impact on his or her decision making process. For example, meeting with a government official’s chief of staff would be a good way to make sure the government official in question hears about your organization.
  3. Create a folder filled with written materials that you can show the official during your meeting. This folder can include recent publications, research done by your organization or relating to your organization, and a map of all the reported incidents of street harassment in your community. The folder can also include press clips or stories from the media that highlight the impact of your organization on the community.
  4. Come up with a list of projects that your organization would like to carry out in the government official’s district. These projects could include the institution of harassment-free zones, community safety audits (see Hollaback Guide on How To Host a Safety Audit), engagement of local businesses, the incorporation of anti-street harassment curriculum into sexual education, PSAs, and subway advertisements.  Write out specifically how you plan to proceed with these projects and why these projects are necessary for the community. Present your plans to the government official or his or her representative during your in-person meeting.
  5. Invite government officials to special events held by your organization. These events might include panels, public meetings, and legislative briefings. A legislative briefing is when you assemble an audience of government officials and present them with information about a problem that can be affected or solved by the government. When you conduct a legislative briefing, you should assume that the government officials in attendance have little or no knowledge of the problem you’re concerned about. In other words, you should provide background information on the issue, distill any complex details into an easy-to understand format, and speak clearly so that your audience can understand you. Your speech should establish the essence of the issue, its root causes, the stakeholders in the issue, and any recommendations for how government officials can influence the future of the issue.
  6. Have government officials make public service announcements or public speeches addressing the projects that your organization is working on. Receiving strong verbal support from government officials is good for your cause and also will also get your organization positive press coverage.
  7. Stay in contact with all government officials who are interested in your projects to constantly remind them of new ideas and future goals. Invite the legislator to co-sponsor and speak at Hollaback! events. Watch as NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn talks about the Hollaback! smartphone app (

As a result of successful legislative advocacy you may have the opportunity to create advertisements and signs that will be displayed in public spaces. Hollaback Philly! received grant funding to place anti-street harassment signs in Philadelphia subways. Here is an example of a subway advertisement about sexual harassment:


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