Episode 11: Advocating for Change and Empowerment with Quentin Phipps
In this Episode:
How does one advocate for change and for your nonprofit? Quentin “Q” Phipps is one of the few people who live on both sides of the equation—as a nonprofit advocate in education and a member of the Connecticut General Assembly. Q joins us to talk about what works, what doesn’t and the ways that nonprofits and government can work together to create a better future.
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Introduction 0:09 Welcome to the nonprofit Hero Factory, a weekly live video broadcast and Podcast, where we’ll be helping nonprofit leaders and innovators create more Heroes for their cause and a better world. DaDing!
Boris Kievsky 0:26 DaDing. Hi everybody. Good morning. Welcome to Episode 11 of the nonprofit Hero Factory, broadcast podcast wherever you’re consuming this content, and if you’re liking it, please go ahead and subscribe. leave us a review. We really appreciate all your thoughts and feedback so we could keep making the show better and serving more nonprofits with the information that they’re really interested in. without spending too much time talking about the show, in general, let’s talk about Que.
My guest today is Quentin Que Phipps. He prefers to be called Que. He serves as Middletown Connecticut’s 100 district representative in the Connecticut State Assembly, General Assembly, I think it is, you can correct me. He’s also a Bryant university graduate and earned a Master’s of Public Administration from Villanova University to work in community banking, and was the executive director of the Middletown downtown business district before he became a rep.
He now serves as the director of advocacy and policy for the excellence community schools. In this role, he builds capacity and supports families through advocacy, community, organizing, and strategic partnering at ACU is going to be a fantastic guest because he’s at that intersection, or rather on both sides of both government and nonprofit work. He describes his superpower as believing in the empowerment of disenfranchised beginning with the recognition of their intrinsic social, political, economic and intellectual capital. I’m gonna let him unwrap that a little bit for us as we bring Que on to the show.
Quentin Phipps 1:59 Good morning. Good morning. Thank you for having me. I was like looking excited.
Boris Kievsky 2:03 I’m really excited to have you on. I know you’ve got a lot of fascinating perspectives on all these things and value to drop on all of our listeners. So thanks so much for being here today. Let’s start off with just sharing your story a little bit. How did you get to be both director of advocacy and policy and a Connecticut State Rep. combination that I don’t think a lot of people in the world hold?
Quentin Phipps 2:26 Yeah, so I’ll start from the beginning. My family is a family that has always been involved in the faith community. Grandma was a deaconess grandpa was a deacon, mom’s a missionary God was a missionary. It’s probably easy to explain which aunts and uncles aren’t deacons and deaconesses and which ones are so serving through the church or just serving your community was always just part of who we are. My mom was also a mental health worker for the state of Connecticut for 30 plus years, and she served those with schizophrenia and depression and anxiety and once again, folks that really had tremendous amounts of needs. Seeing her service to the community was something that always inspired me for what I thought I wanted to do. Thanks for sharing my bio.
I went to Brown University studied marketing, and I knew I wanted to sell something, whether it’s an idea or a product, the idea of like getting information now and getting folks to buy in or invest was something that I care deeply about. But my minor was always in political science. I was in student government all the way from literally sixth grade all the way up until graduation in college and knew that I think service through government and public administration was something that would happen at one point or another. In graduating, I was in Rhodes alone, which is a top 10 internship in the nation at the time, worked for a bank and did banking for about 10 years, and in that time, realized that I didn’t really like the finance part and the banking part.
I love the community part. I love going to the chamber meetings. I loved watching On nonprofit boards, I love the event planning I loved seeing our constituents and customers like brother like buy their first home or save for the wedding. That was the fun part that was the part that really made you want to wake up and get the like get up out of bed and do the work. All the other stuff all the big thing and finance that was that was the boring part. I finally said okay, let’s make the switch. Let’s really focus on the part that you love the part that drives your soul. I switched to working for the downtown business district, which was an awesome opportunity. We created the first Middletown Restaurant Week and beautification projects, but during that time, I was able to be a volunteer in a mentor at our local community school, elementary school, kindergarten through fifth grade.
I had my little buddy Marcus and I saw Marcus deal with and suffer through and have to work through and overcome Many of the same challenges and education that I had as a student, and he reminded me of myself but didn’t have the same sort of supports like my mom. He couldn’t he couldn’t do it by himself and his family wasn’t there to help them overcome it. It was painful to watch, along with seeing the teachers want to help but not really understanding this young boys problems in the institutional and structural and systemic reasons of why he was struggling. That’s when it was time to really make that switch to education, which is how I found excellent Community Schools excellent community schools, is a charter management organization.
We have several schools in New York, one school here in Connecticut and our school district here in Connecticut is the number one performing school district in the entire state, which are really, really proud about but when we joined our school has a model that argues that you can’t just have a place for scholarly achievement if the outside environment It isn’t there. If you don’t have a community that supports your school, and my community we mean our parents and families, we mean grandparents, aunts and uncles, we mean the church next door and the funeral home across the street and the restaurants and everyone. If everyone’s not involved, and our parents and families and students can’t get the outside resources that they need in order to thrive, then I can’t expect the child to do well on a test. That’s just not a fair expectation.
My boss and Dr. Charlene read, and if you ever get a chance to really be impressed by someone, please. She’s like, literally the leading educator in early elementary education in the entire country. She was looking for someone that can combine two different skills. One was knowing how to navigate government structures and that was the city treasurer and a planning and zoning Commissioner. I was former president of Connecticut young democrats so had tons of business I mean, government relationships, but also really understood organizing and at the end of the day, The organizing pieces really who I am and what is I think my calling.
Boris Kievsky 7:08 Yeah. How does that combined with the Connecticut State Rep.
Quentin Phipps 7:13 Oh, yes. Yes. One of the things that I think nonprofits really have to kind of switch how they work is that we should work ourselves out of a job, right? At some point, like the American Council of cancer society should have done enough research raise enough money that we cure cancer and they no longer have a job to do and now it’s time to do the next work right? or save love Habitat for Humanity. I think there’s two ways to end homelessness, one building homes, which is something that they do very, very well at, like if you want to make someone not homeless, you give them a home. That makes a lot of sense. I think you also have to work on the systemic issues behind the scenes, right? Like how do they get into a place where work for all of us why housing is so expensive, like we have to talk about energy We have to talk about lack of access to banking. And we have to talk about the fact that folks don’t make enough money. All these sort of systemic reasons of why it’s so hard to be able to own a home is going to be part of the process. So from my, from the very beginning, and my mentality was my job as a parent advocate, or as community relations manager, and now the director of advocacy and policy isn’t to be the advocate, right? I’m not there to go and tell, um, at the time, elected officials or state reps or whoever else, here’s what our parents are going through. It was my job to teach parents how to do that work. And I knew it was time to switch when Melissa who was good was a parent that really touched me and literally changed my life. She talked about her struggles, a lot, escaping and overcoming homelessness, and I’m leaving New York to make sure that her child had a better chance at education and originally She didn’t even get picked in the lottery and got pulled off the waitlist. I mean, Just a just a true fierce champion for our school each and every time. So we were at the Capitol, and we had about five or six parents. I said, Okay, here’s what the plan is. And Wilson said, Stop, I’m going to tell you what the plan is, we’re going to go see Pat Miller, and then we’re going to see see center, do Leoni, not there, then we’re going to write the notes and then we’re going to see this person and that person, then we’re going to come back, have lunch here in the cafeteria with you, you’re going to pay for it, then we’re going to go work the ropes. Now the ropes are where the actual capital is. So when you’re in session, the lobbyists have to stay behind the ropes for for legal reasons. And then the legislators are on the other side, literally, either in a caucus room or in the atrium, where we’d like we actually like push them to make the laws. And then we’re going to work the ropes, which is actually like a lobbyist talk, right? We’re going to go work the ropes. And then we’re going to get back on the bus and we’re gonna go back to Stanford, as a bunch you guys know, like Mr. Q. Like, we got this. I know exactly what to do. You taught me See you later bye for comparison left. And there was two parts of that. There was one like the pure joy of like, yes, this is like what true empowerment looks like this is what an active, engaged, empowered constituent looks like. This is what everyone should have the ability to do so and once again, this was someone that was overcoming poverty and over overcome homelessness, like real struggles, now was using the same language at a lobbyist with us. So that was like, What’s going it was thrilling. And then it was like, Oh, crap, I worked myself out of a job. Like they don’t they literally, I literally had my person Tell me, I don’t need you. So then it was time to say, Okay, well, what’s next and I had always looked for opportunities to run and be engaged in the state capitol work as a legislator, Senator Matt Lester, who was a very, very near and dear friend to mind. We started together in the planning and zoning commission. He was running for state senate so the seat was going to open up, and I really wanted someone that was going to have an equity lens in the work that was going to put social justice and racial justice at the forefront of the platform and really wanted to change and I thought I was the best person and God Willing a lot of luck and a lot of work. I had an amazing campaign team run by Divina, Dunlap was one of the leading campaign managers in the state right now and one of the best social media and communication leaders in the state. She ran my campaign and now in the US, the first state representative or black state representative to represent the city of Middletown in our 200 plus year history.
We have to talk about the fact that folks don’t make enough money. All these sort of systemic reasons of why it’s so hard to be able to own a home is going to be part of the process. From the very beginning, and my mentality was my job as a parent advocate, or as community relations manager, and now the director of advocacy and policy isn’t to be the advocate, right? I’m not there to go and tell at the time, elected officials or state reps or whoever else, here’s what our parents are going through. It was my job to teach parents how to do that work.
I knew it was time to switch when Melissa who was good was a parent that really touched me and literally changed my life. She talked about her struggles, a lot, escaping and overcoming homelessness, and I’m leaving New York to make sure that her child had a better chance at education and originally She didn’t even get picked in the lottery and got pulled off the waitlist. I mean, Just a just a true fierce champion for our school each and every time.
We were at the Capitol, and we had about five or six parents. I said, Okay, here’s what the plan is. Wilson said, Stop, I’m going to tell you what the plan is, we’re going to go see Pat Miller, and then we’re going to see see center, do Leoni, not there, then we’re going to write the notes and then we’re going to see this person and that person, then we’re going to come back, have lunch here in the cafeteria with you, you’re going to pay for it, then we’re going to go work the ropes. Now the ropes are where the actual capital is. When you’re in session, the lobbyists have to stay behind the ropes for for legal reasons. Then the legislators are on the other side, literally, either in a caucus room or in the atrium, where we’d like we actually like push them to make the laws.
Then we’re going to work the ropes, which is actually like a lobbyist talk, right? We’re going to go work the ropes. Then we’re going to get back on the bus and we’re gonna go back to Stanford, as a bunch you guys know, like Mr. Q. Like, we got this. I know exactly what to do. You taught me See you later bye for comparison left. There was two parts of that. There was one like the pure joy of like, yes, this is like what true empowerment looks like this is what an active, engaged, empowered constituent looks like. This is what everyone should have the ability to do so and once again, this was someone that was overcoming poverty and overcome homelessness, like real struggles, now was using the same language at a lobbyist with us. That was like, What’s going it was thrilling. Then it was like, Oh, crap, I worked myself out of a job. I literally had my person Tell me, I don’t need you.
Then it was time to say, Okay, well, what’s next and I had always looked for opportunities to run and be engaged in the state capitol work as a legislator, Senator Matt Lester, who was a very, very near and dear friend to mind. We started together in the planning and zoning commission. He was running for state senate so the seat was going to open up, and I really wanted someone that was going to have an equity lens in the work that was going to put social justice and racial justice at the forefront of the platform and really wanted to change and I thought I was the best person and God Willing a lot of luck and a lot of work.
I had an amazing campaign team run by Divina, Dunlap was one of the leading campaign managers in the state right now and one of the best social media and communication leaders in the state. She ran my campaign and now in the US, the first state representative or black state representative to represent the city of Middletown in our 200 plus year history.
Boris Kievsky 11:37 That is pretty phenomenal. A lot to unpack in that story. Unfortunately, we’re out of time for today. No, I’m just kidding. Obviously, you have a very unique journey of your own and and a lot of experience that that has come from being hands on In both sides of the of these two different sectors, talk to me a little bit about what’s going on these days. From both the nonprofit side of things, and the state side of things COVID has changed everything, at least temporarily, hopefully only temporarily, but in large parts also permanently. Then we have things like the Black Lives Matter movement right now, which is taking up a lot of focus, deservedly so, in society, where does that put the average nonprofit, in terms of the work that they could get done and working with government and advocacy?
Quentin Phipps 12:40 We’re gonna we’re gonna try to like bring that big question. We’re gonna keep kind of narrowing it down. Right. The Commissioner of Education Cardona who was was gonna done a good job. I’m pretty impressed with his work. He’s done decent. He said in numerous conference calls and talks that COVID and the Coronavirus has brought to light a lot of the systemic inequities that our society community is bad.
If we don’t make changes now, we will never see changes. He then went on to say literally five or 10 minutes afterwards that I’m in education, we have to respect Home Rule. Home Rule is literally the reason that we have all the systemic inequities in education that we have. We have this duality, right. I think the other thing that we say, or we’ve heard over and over again, is that this pandemic has brought to light this inequity and these troubles and obstacles and challenges that that is brought to light like folks didn’t know.
Boris Kievsky 13:45 Yeah,
Quentin Phipps 13:45 I don’t know about you. But all of us, nonprofit community, have been saying this for years. All of us, I would say in the black community that have seen this systemic oppression have been saying it for years. I know a lot of my LGBTQ plus folks have been saying that this is the world is not right. It’s not I don’t feel safe all the time. Over and over and over again, we have these folks that are saying that we didn’t know. But now we know. When it comes to the question of, are we actually going to do what it takes to make the change that we all know is needed? We found out in this in this pandemic, that we are all very close to being in like once again like real either financial trouble economic trouble, physical health. I mean, I have had several friends that were young, passed from the COVID virus fairly early in the pandemic, so we were all gonna shot away from literal death as a state rep.
I can’t even count how many people have said like they need like, they need This unemployment to go through so they can put food on the table so they can stay in their homes. Now, as someone that ran not on, I didn’t even run on a $15 minimum wage per hour, I’ve been saying that it should be a $25 minimum wage per hour, as if we indexed the current rate to what the rate was in the 1940s. During the the New Deal, when we had the most prosperity ever in our entire country. These are the sort of things that I think we need to fight for, on a governmental level to make sure that we are fighting for the systemic change.
On the nonprofit side, we have to now go back and push our investors, our sponsors, those that donate to us, all of our constituents, and also to be frank government support to say, Okay, now that we all agree that this is a problem, since you didn’t believe that before. Now, we now we all agree that this problem exists. Either you believe that we are a solution to the problem. Boom, which many of us have proven over and over again, that we are. Now you were invested so we can actually fix the problem. Or we can no longer say that we actually care about the problem. I think that rubber is is meeting the road at this exact moment. Now is the time to really speak out to be loud, to be bold to be unapologetic. Because the truth is clear. We’re no longer going to speak truth to power, we’re going to speak power to power.
Boris Kievsky 16:28 So how do we do that? What’s working, what’s not working? I mean, there are all kinds of and I focus, of course, on digital technology, there are all kinds of tools out there like petitions, like change.org or the ones at the White House, we the people, right, do those work is that what nonprofits should be doing? What what’s going to work for them.
Quentin Phipps 16:52 I believe that those that are closest to the problem or also close to the solution. For instance, when I was didn’t make a lot of money, I knew the solution. My answer was to make more money. Like, for me, it was a very clear solution. I also go back to the recipient Fredo who passed away several years ago. She was a community organizer and advocate for mark an area, middle towns arc, those so it helps people with mental disabilities, and intellectual disability, excuse me. She helps elevate their voice or was when she wasn’t speaking for folks. She was teaching people how to do it. A lot of the model in which that I use for political advocacy or use of use for political advocacy was blatantly stolen from seeing how the resident Fredo did it because she was an advocate first for those with intellectual disabilities.
Then she talked about her journey, fighting cancer until she passed away. I still remember what’s going on here was it’s fierce advocate for the community. There was a jar at The local pizza place about raising money to help her pay for her medical bills. I was like she is and she’s also a politician’s daughter too. Here was someone that had did so much work for the community. It was relatively connected, was still struggling to pay bills. Like that didn’t make sense to me. How do we fix this? Right? It has to be about education, empowerment of your constituencies, and making sure that they can speak for themselves and that they know how and that they are supported in that process.
We’re meeting people where they’re at. So the number one question any nonprofit advocate can ask someone is what how are you doing? What do you need? Then once we start off with those two questions, and figuring and so this is where we can find like, here’s an answer. Like if you say, I’m having trouble with housing, well, here’s a solution for that or here’s possible solutions, which one sounds good to you? Then he worked him through that. Okay, well, here are some possible ways to solve that. We can write an email, we can make a phone call, we can go visit, right? We can invite them to our space. There’s so many ways in which you can do it. what way do you want to participate?
What way do you want to help? I go back and think about our parent at my school, where she was a grandmother that was really impressed with our music program. Now, typically, and she was her her main language is Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish. I couldn’t communicate with her well, oftentimes, especially in education circles, where it is very American centric, like learn English, it’s like fit into the box, right, especially in PTA it can be some of the most vicious political spaces on the planet, right.
This is a parent that would not have been able to really get involved. But she was so impressed with the music program. She hands so beautiful stage. curtains, if we have paid reels they literally would have been 10s of thousands of dollars. She handled them and they look absolutely gorgeous. In seeing all of our parents as someone that can help solve a problem, that have natural assets, something to bring to the table, and just by simply asking, Hey, how do you want to help? I think that’s how we’re going to really change the process and engagement in this work,
Boris Kievsky 20:28 I completely agree with you. It is definitely about activating the community and getting each person to contribute what they can to the to the process to the overall cause. I really want to know specifically, okay, I’m a nonprofit that cares about, let’s say, education, or let’s say, Arts in schools, or let’s say really homelessness, anything. What do I do? How do I get my cause the attention that it deserves in terms of public policy in terms of My representatives, right? What do I ask my constituents to do on on our behalf?
Quentin Phipps 21:07 That’s a good question. There’s several things that I think work. Here’s the thing that I would do in no specific order one look on their websites or look on their Facebook pages or Instagrams if they have their, like their public personal number, whose day I’m sorry quick, especially for if you’re if you’re doing state advocacy work. That’s the one that I have the most experience with, or even though on local level, federal level, we’ll save that for another call because it’s much more complicated and but it’s still up. Let me just make one quick point about the federal side because the same for all the sides. Even if you don’t have the money that some of the more affluent organizations have like such as a national association that likes rifles, for instance, right?
They have way more money than we could ever possibly have. What they don’t have no matter What their website tells you they don’t have the numbers, they don’t have the numbers they don’t. We all for the things that we care about, there are a lot more of us engaged about what’s good about anti poverty, work about social justice, about racial justice, about housing, about the environment, there’s way more of us that is easy to activate, as you talked about, and engage, then there are them. Fight with the numbers don’t fight with the dollars, we will lose the dollar fight every single time, we will win the number one every single time.
That’s a quick part. So on this on the local side, in the state side, oftentimes people will say we’ll send emails like this the form letters, I wouldn’t recommend the form letters they’re really easy to ignore and get past or they often end up in spam files. I wouldn’t recommend those. What I would recommend is if you suppose going to city council people, the mayor Board of Education, any of your state legislators, go to their websites Look, it’s often says Call me at this number or find me at this number. You take That phone number, make the phone call. I would also recommend don’t use form scripts, right? Don’t read what someone else gave you. You know your own story, you know your own life, you know what you’re trying to overcome? share that. The reason I say make a phone call is like the mayor, very few mayor’s read their own emails, like they have staff, save them.
I read my emails, I get most of my emails sent to me. I also have staff that takes a lot of the stuff that I just won’t have the opportunity to get through because we have a part time legislature in the state of Connecticut. If she has to just like click a button that says delete, that takes her a few seconds. If you make a phone call, now they have to pick up the phone and like talk to you and interact. Now once again, that’s a literal, it’s a lot more personal as a personal connection. I know your name. I know where you’re from. I know what your problem is. I’m like we’ve humanize each other in a way that you can’t do or it’s harder. Do with an email, especially with a form letter. Pick up the phone. Now mind you, that’s going to take time. That’s terrible, they can’t do the other work. That’s already going to make you have to make a choice. Now, what if we times that by 10.
Now mind you, most folks don’t get any email. I’ll give you an example. I’ll put my personal cell phone, I’m not sure if you can see it, I’ll put my personal cell phone in this right now. I do it all the time hoping to get from a member I even made a second phone number, because I knew my phone was going to be ringing off the hook the moment I gave out my cell phone number because I’m a state rep folks on the call the time with means I’m giving up the number next year because no one ever uses it. Now I’m only using the same personal number, the same one that my wife uses. Even as you have opportunities to reach out to your legislature and it’s a district of 25,000 Plus, it doesn’t include my parents of 400 I don’t get it. I don’t feel I get a lot of enough calls.
If you call let’s say you called one time you’re going to get noticed Now if 10 people call at this, like, around the same time, staff is gonna go Wait a second, like what’s going on? Like, how did how this is this must be important. This is 10 people, if you get 25 or 50 people to call in one day, that means even said, even if it was, let’s say was 60 people for a minute each, that means an hour of their production was taken out our the work that they’re gonna have to figure out when to do somewhere else, I guarantee you by the 30th call, they’re gonna call the state rep, or they’re gonna call the mayor, they’re gonna call the Board of Education, superintendent, whoever else and say, This is important. We have to solve this now.
So pick up the phone, it’s like literally one of your, your strongest opportunities to do so. too. If you see the public forums, especially now when we everything’s on like zoom or Google chats or Facebook Live, join those meetings. It’s very, very easy. You can ask anything you want you can say whatever you want those Are your times to be seen and to be heard, and bring a group what’s gonna if you bring just yourself, you’ll be seen to be heard and someone’s going to address it. If you have five or 10 people, people can go Okay, well wait when you’re starting your building like this is something big, if you bring 25 people or 50 people in the room, you will have the entire room.
Then your topic will be the topic of short, and I guarantee you will get that salt. Use your ability to organize is really, really important. I like how you talk about storytelling. Use your social media to tell your story so folks and say let me if I had to follow up what’s going on? I would also recommend um, what can you teach people like how to tell that story right? Sharing your name using specific other name like this don’t like my child? No, this is This is Jake and Jake is in the third grade. Jake likes the Power Rangers like really? It really it has to be pretty Personalized so we can do this work together.
Boris Kievsky 27:02 That’s how empathy works, you need to be able to really relate to someone and the more you could say about them, the more likely someone’s going to be able to connect to them.
Quentin Phipps 27:12 Totally, totally. I was just saying like the number one thing I would say is if you’re going to use an email, make sure it’s a personalized email, I would recommend not doing form letters, but every chance you can get to make a phone call or showing up. Those are your best ways to get action immediately.
Boris Kievsky 27:32 If I’m a nonprofit, and I want to get attention to my cause, some of the things I could do based on what you’re saying is give out phone numbers, right supply phone numbers based on my zip code based on whatever to the people whose attention I have a right to get. I can leave I can maybe not script emails, but maybe structure and say hey, can you email so tone so and talk about this here are the talking points. address and include your own personal story.
I can also help distribute the calendars for all of the different representatives that I and the meetings as you’re talking about, that are now happening virtually. I don’t even have to leave my house. I can show up on a zoom call for my city or my district, whatever it might be, and get heard about the issues that are pressing. The more people we can activate as an organization, the more attention we’re going to get and more we’re going to take over the conversation to a degree right,
Quentin Phipps 28:32 Totally. The other thing I would say is don’t there’s nothing to be afraid of, right? They work for you. You vote them in. For those of us in the state legislature that have public finance, we literally need you to give us $5 up to $100 and raise a certain amount of money in order to be able to run for office. This is all part of the process. You literally have all the power, the power is completely unbalanced, and we get the vote. later on. If we win But once we’re there, if we want to continue doing the work for you, it’s a really a partnership in the more empowered you are, the more more mission you have, and the more closer and the other thing is this was what builds a relationship, and what makes all of us stronger. Right?
If you have a need, and I can fulfill it, that means I’m a person of trust and personal power and authority that makes which makes you want to support me more. If I know I can, and for me, it’s I do this as a calling for service, if I can help you that that’s really what the work is about. That’s the sort of partnership that we want to do in collaboration and cooperation, not in what’s going on in a sort of antagonistic way.
Boris Kievsky 29:44 In terms of nonprofits taking action and doing this, are there any specific types of nonprofits and causes that are more more fitting for these types of approaches for advocacy approaches and for effectively lobbying If we want to use the darkside term, or is this really something any organization can and should be looking at taking advantage of?
Quentin Phipps 30:09 I would. I think we often look at advocacy as its own separate thing. Right. I think probably because of my marketing background, looking at marketing as one, how do you get something from one place to the other? It’s been all the steps in between advocacy is I think it’s kind of part of that umbrella of like, if we’re trying to get from one place to the other? At what point do we need to convince people at what point do we need to make sure that we’re all on the same page advocacy is about empowerment, advocacy is about education and information. And informed people are empowered people, empowered people make action happen, right.
This is something that all of us need to do, should do. I said, Does everyone need to go to the state capitol, maybe possibly. Yes, I would argue Yes. Because those that are there have a lot more power in many ways. If you go to the town hall meeting that is just as powerful if you make the phone calls, I’m telling you, that is incredibly, incredibly powerful tool. If you write on their on their Facebook page, that is a very, very powerful tool.
Everyone should do this as part of your strategy and how to get your mission accomplished. Because there’s not a single thing because nonprofits by definition, have a mission and a mission has going to have some sort of social cause. It’s very hard to overcome any of these sort of social obstacles without government help, whether it’s changing the law or government investment. We have to be partners in this work. As such, it’s if you are really trying to get your mission executed, you need to have that partnership with with government.
Boris Kievsky 31:57 You I couldn’t have paid you to say it better. Pretty with you, a couple of weeks ago, I did a solo show talking about issues like this and that every organization, there needs to be some level of advocacy there can be and shouldn’t be. I also talk a lot about in storytelling, we have the principles of heroes and villains. The more you can unite people around a common cause, which oftentimes might be based on a common villain, or a principle of heroism that you want everyone to partake in a journey that you want them to go on, the bigger those things are, and the government certainly feels like a giant in the room, then the more people you can actually activate and they’re going to feel more involved, they’re going to feel more like they’re part of your organization, like they’re part of making change that they already care about if they’re supporting you in the first place. It’s a win, win win.
Quentin Phipps 32:55 I probably should give an example examples from the School of what advocacy can look like. And probably the number one tool that I forgot to share was invite them into your space. Right? In Connecticut, there’s an anti charter movement. To this day was going I’ve been working for a charter school for over close to seven years now over six years now. I will be the first one to say, I am not a charter school supporter. I love my school, a little our school does, but that is not indicative of the overall charter movement.
I think if more schools acted like us, I would be probably a bigger fan of charter schools. But that’s not what it is. I also think there’s significant issues with just our schools, our traditional public schools, as we would call them, I think that it was in the inequity and how we fund them. It is broken period. It’s broken. Like the fact that students in Greenwich have more money per student than the students in Bridgeport is not you can’t argue that and that is fundamentally wrong.
Boris Kievsky 33:51 At this point, when we’re all learning from home and kids are learning from home, they access to technology is creating an even greater disparity.
Quentin Phipps 34:00 Derrick Dan in New Canaan has had computers literally the next day for their children. In Stanford and in Bridgeport and Middletown my own hometown, we still don’t have computers for all of our children. Right. So when I was first doing the work, even as someone myself who wasn’t thrilled about working for charter school, per se, how do you take that charter? Right, like, what things can we agree on? When we were doing our initial engagement with the mayor with our board of education with state legislators, it was coming to our school. Don’t come to Stanford charter school for excellence. Come to Stanford excellence, right? Just come just come to our school. I want you to when you walk in, I want you to see that it’s a woman welcoming, I want you to see the the banners of all the different colleges that were inspiring our scholars or children or students to see from the very beginning.
I want you to come and see our kindergarteners read, right. I want you to see that our teachers, they’re not charter school teachers, their teachers, right. I want to see Mr. Fisher, our principal who’s not a charter A school principal. He’s a principal He’s Mr. Fisher. He’s someone that absolutely loves kids will fight for kids harder than I’ve ever seen anyone fight for. That’s what I want you to see. Right I want you to add in our our secret reading block, I want you to see that all of our children are reading from pre K to fifth grade. I want you to ask questions I want you to walk into the room and sit on the rug with the kids and sit crisscross applesauce like everyone else. You have to you I want you to feel it, see it, experience it.
Then I want to ask you how do you want to help and the ability to help once again is a it’s a very empowering channel for both sides but inviting people into your space so they could see it for themselves, experience it, smell it, see it, hear it, feel it everything. That’s what real advocacy looks like. Then I’m going to name it takes away from the talking points, right. Now we can talk about children. We can talk about students, as we talk about funding. Before when we’re talking about funding, it was like esoteric. Well, it’s 100 million dollars worth $600,000. Here. Well, no, you just saw jr continuing to read. It’s going to cost this much money for jr to read. Do you want jr to continue to read?
You know what you need to continue to read it? I mean, at that point, it’s a very, it’s a very different question. A lot easier to talk about, do you want jr to read? Or do we want this line item on the budget in a 22 page document, not including fine print, that’s not a fair conversation to have. That’s also not a conversation that constituents can have because that’s not their job. My job is to be a parent, right? My job is to make sure that my kid has the best education that they can have. I just need you to see that my child can read that my child is doing math that my third grader is talking about I want to go to Yale one day or I want to go to MIT one day. I need you to hear that. Then we can have a real true dynamic test. But the people behind the money.
Boris Kievsky 36:19 It’s similar to what you were saying earlier about sharing your story with your representatives and talking specifically from your experience. It’s taking it out of the abstract and making it into an individual, relatable person that makes all the difference. That’s huge aspect of storytelling in general. You want to tell your own story. As a nonprofit, you want to tell the stories of your heroes, if you can bring people into your space. Fantastic. Right now, all spaces are a little challenging, but a lot of organizations, they don’t have a school to bring people into to see Johnny, but you can still bring Johnny story to the representatives to people in government.
Quentin Phipps 37:37 I can go back to mark lorises organization. In terms of COVID, they asked me to come to their space by coming to their space. They have a home that they manage and run and I was able to teach the their consumers how to make pancakes. I’m actually pretty good chef. I’m a terrible pancake maker, but even in the process Have explaining like what dish to make, right? I was like, Okay, well, good. I’m gonna make a really fancy dinner like all this sort of stuff. Then the CEO was like Que. Our consumers don’t have access to these sort of resources and like, Oh, yeah, and these are consumers might not be able to buy these ingredients and securing these ingredients would be a little tough. So yet, duh, right? So that was a way to get their state representative to understand what they are going through from day to day, right?
It’s still connection, it’s because I still got it and I got to be in front of them to was going to kind of build my brand and model and show them that we have a relationship, but it was, um, was going it was a transformative experience to be able to understand what they are going through day to day, and Okay, now maybe a second. If I have opportunities for this, what would it take for them to have those same opportunities to be able to what I thought was a fairly simple dish like fried chicken or steak or whatever I want to make, um, but if they don’t if they can’t do that, is there a way to empower their community to do so. Let’s have those conversations. That’s what’s gonna buy a simple invitation to saying, hey, I want you to cook a dish for our consumers.
Boris Kievsky 39:16 This is already the longest episode I’ve had. I feel like we can go on for another couple of hours. This is all awesome stuff and great stories. You are a natural storyteller. It’s fantastic because it really helps bring to life. Just like we’ve been talking about all of these specific things. I don’t want to take up your entire day. I do want to talk though, about a couple of things. First of all, I asked everybody for a tool or a resource that they recommend to nonprofits and nonprofit leaders. You mentioned the situational leader by Paul Hersey. Why that book?What’s that about?
Quentin Phipps 39:52 Even after being 15 years out of Brian, I still take a business approach and business lens to a lot of the work that I Do. Situational Leadership essentially, is a framework for how to solve a problem with people, it’s a people oriented solution and essentially says, Does someone want to do the task at hand? Or do they not want to do it? Can they do it? Or Can’t they do it? Depending on where they fall in that sort of quadrant like, I can’t and I want to, it’s very different than someone that says, I don’t want to and I can’t, or I want to, and I can’t, you have to work with those folks very differently. I think that example is with any of our constituencies.
In terms of accuracy, you’re going to have folks who say, I really want to talk to my state rep. I don’t know their number. I don’t know what to say, Oh, I can teach you that if you if you want to. Now, if you say I want I know how I know their number I’ve ever I played golf with them, but I don’t want to talk to them. Okay, well, we have a very different discussion, right? Situational Leadership, helps create a framework for how you can go about working with people depending on where they’re at, and I use it all the time. I even will say, well, sounds like you don’t want to do this. I want to know why. You sound like you want to, but we still haven’t done it yet. Why is that? You can we work? You work through those. So I Love it. Love it. I’m gonna I’m teaching a class that you heard in the fall, and I’m definitely gonna get our students to read that part of it.
Boris Kievsky 41:21 Are you familiar with the Fogg behavior model? No, not really, it sounds very, very similar. Because what it says is behavior equals motivation plus ability plus prompt, wants to look to do something, they have to be motivated to do it or motivated enough, it has to be easy enough, the ability has to be easy enough for them to achieve it. Then you need to prompt them to do it in the first place. Yeah, that translates directly into what you were talking about. If they’re not so motivated, you got to increase the motivation between the three things like if it’s super easy, you don’t have to be that motivated, right?
This is why like, picking up the phone and calling versus just sending an email for a lot It’ll be easier to send an email, right? Between those three, the motivation, the ability and the prompt like if someone keeps prompting you, if you’ve got an alarm going off every five minutes a call eventually, you’re gonna do it told me that it’s gotten greater friction and harder to do in the first place. It sounds like a great book. I’m gonna add it to my audible list.
I keep getting great suggestions, and I’m almost caught up on all my credits. I still got some room. Cute. What should people do? What should nonprofit leaders that are watching or listening to the show? What should they do next? Should they get in? How should they get in touch with you? Or what should they do to start taking action in their own organizations? Awesome, so I’ll do the how to reach me first. So one, please go to my website, the seat my Connecticut General Assembly website page. If you just do CGA q FX pH I PPS I’ll come right up at the bottom of it. You can find my email list
Quentin Phipps 43:00 Great way to get information on how to I am a power user of Facebook. I am a wicked Gen Y person. So I missed the bonuses from genetics from when he graduated college, but not quite as young as the the new millennials and like the tick tock stuff, right? Facebook is something like power use. I don’t have enough room on the personal side anymore, but there’s two pages you can follow me on. The one is my official state representative page. That was fun to or that was more informative and informative in the traditional sense. There’s a Quint Quintin q FIPS, which is like a political page and it’s it is partisan. But that’s a lot more just who I am so I’ve encouraged you to follow or like those pages.
You can also reach me on twitter at qu e WP one m Africa if you use at qu e w one, if I’m on Instagram, Twitter, mostly email addresses if you do Gmail, Hotmail, MSN like all of them will all go to me, but use the Gmail one because that’s the only one I really check regularly. Follow me on those sort of things. You can also reach out to me on LinkedIn, I use LinkedIn fairly regularly also. As I said, I give everyone my cell phone number, so it’s going to put it out in the world world. Again, it’s 860-830-5407. That is the same exact number that my wife uses to give me a call or text me. If you want to give me a call, feel free to give me a call to there.
Boris Kievsky 44:29 I can vouch that works. I have called on that phone he does pick up, we’ll have all of those things linked in our episode shownotes, which people could find at MP hero factory.com slash EP, Episode 11. And we’ll have the book linked we’ll have all this stuff as well as the transcript. The takeaway is all of this. I hope people do follow up. I really appreciate everything that you’ve shared. I feel like it’s a topic that does not get enough attention but desperately should be getting more attention and utilized, the strategies that you’re talking about. Que, Thank you so much for joining us. opportunity. I hope I can have you back sometime soon to keep talking about all these different things and
Quentin Phipps 45:13 Tell me when. You can tell I love to talk.
Boris Kievsky 45:15 When the election approaches we’ll have even more things to talk about. But until then, you and I’m sure we’ll be in touch and help others get in touch with you too. Thank you. Great day.
Quentin Phipps 45:28 You too, my friend. That’s me.
Exit 45:31 Thank you all for watching and listening to the nonprofit Hero Factory. We hope this episode has given you some ideas and strategies for creating war heroes for your cause and a better world for all of us. Please be sure to subscribe to this show on Youtube, Facebook, iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform and let us know what you think by leaving a review
Concepts and Takeaways:
COVID-19 has brought many systemic inequities in our society to light. If we don’t make changes now, while these inequalities are in the spotlight, we will never see change at all.
Nonprofits have to change how they work. It’s not enough to work at a problem – nonprofits should work so well that they work themselves out of a job.
When it comes to using advocacy to enact change, there’s strength in numbers. Fight with numbers, not with dollars.
Be loud, be bold and be unapologetic.
Personal storytelling is a great tool to help humanize your purpose. Use your name. Use your photo. Use anecdotes so that people can truly connect to your cause.
Use all public resources available to reach state legislators. Call. Email. Write. Open and accessible discourse is your right as a U.S. citizen.
Action Steps: What Now?
In this episode, the following resources were mentioned:
State Representative, Connecticut General Assembly
State Representative Quentin “Q” Phipps serves Middletown’s 100th District. “Q” is a Bryant University graduate and earned Master of Public Administration from Villanova University. Quentin worked in community banking, and was the Executive Director of the Middletown Downtown Business District. Quentin now serves as the Director of Advocacy and Policy for the Excellence Community Schools. In this role, “Q” builds capacity and supports families through advocacy, community organizing and strategic partnering.