As a member of the Black Caucus of New York, I got an invitation from a friend who served in the Black Maryland as the executive director. The Maryland Caucus was inclusive of all the African-American delegates as well as senators in the state. The Caucus serves as the black community's ears, voice and eyes. A core part of their mission was to be a legislative organization that champions the welfare of the black community and advocate for policies and programs that were in the best interest of the black community in Maryland. This entailed keeping the members of the Caucus and the entire community that they served up-to-date with crucial information on important issues and effecting positive change.
The session of the Maryland Caucus took on issues faced by the whole Maryland community and zeroed into the problems of the blacks in the community. The issue of reducing the consumption of cigarettes among the blacks was one of the issues discussed. According to the statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention done in 2013, 29.8% of the African-American adult population indulges in tobacco use. Consumption of menthol cigarettes is more popular due to the misconception that it may be better to their health. Once the legislators learn of such a misunderstanding, they come together and formulate the best methods to educate their members and to secure support from the white community. The Caucus then developed policies to create and host public awareness campaigns.
Since the Caucus was the organization responsible for planning, they made a list of partners that they felt would benefit their course. This list was inclusive off Healthcare entities, community leaders, and fellow legislators. Despite the Caucus being a partisan organization, they were bold enough to bring in other differently opinionated groups to the merit of the mission. Klijn (1996) posit policymaking is the result of an interaction process between many actors. Having representatives from various organizations and political affiliations is a critical factor in formulating and advancing public policy as it engages several perspectives on the subject matter (Stitch and Miller, 2008).
The majority of the group were policy makers and considering the composition of the team; they comprised a comprehensive network. The efforts of the group were based on the principle democratic rights of life and liberty. The Network, therefore, focused on formulating a policy that would limit tobacco use. This would improve health, which is essential for anyone to live. Such a mission called for a comprehensive legislative process. Planning for its impact was a complex task. In some cases, policy development may seem like giving a group an advantage over others. Therefore, the network was striving to equalize and empower both the white and the black community, instead of being biased towards educating the black smokers only.
Members of the Legislative Black Caucus took this issue as an opportunity to convene education to the whole population and to receive their public policy advancement. Their collaboration could have seen the Legislative Black Caucus separated from the General Assembly. On the Contrary, this collaboration, disregarding their partisan views, with the other groups to the merit of the entire Maryland community likened them to ambassadors of goodwill. This provided an excellent example of the complex role of a convening agency in the process of policy making (Klijn, 1996). This network was successful in some ways. They were able to, as advocated by Stitch and Miller (2008) make the shift from Coalitions as adversaries to a partnership. This is a factor that contributed to their success in recruiting legislatures from other groups. By creating a community of leaders as well as organizations across Maryland, (mostly the black communities) the Caucus created a network that was essential in their success of developing a viable education program.
Klijn, E. H. (1996). Analyzing and managing policy processes in complex networks: A theoretical examination of the concept policy network and its problems. Administration and Society, 28(1), 90119.
Stich, B., & Miller, C. R. (2008). Using the advocacy coalition framework to understand freight transportation policy change. Public Works Management Policy, 13(1), 6274.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/disparities/african-americans/index.htm
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