Freedom of Information! FOIA as a Grassroots Advocacy Tool

Proposed training for Netroots Nation 2019

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has long been a tool for activists to gain access to government records, but getting the information is only the first step. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) has used FOIA requests and litigation as a tool to support movement and community partners in their advocacy and organizing. Together with one of our partners, Detention Watch Network (DWN), we will go through the basic steps for filing and litigating a FOIA request, and show how information obtained through FOIA can shape creative and powerful public education and advocacy campaigns.
  • Submitted by: Aliya Hussain
  • Trainer(s): Mary Small, Ian Head

Categories: Communication, Grassroots Organizing/Campaigns

What are the takeaways for people who attend this training? What skills will be taught to people who attend?

Participants will leave the training with a set of starting points and strategies for how to draft a FOIA request and different ways to use FOIA to advocate for the issues and information important to them or their organization’s campaign goals. We will share some inspirational examples, such as Detention Watch Network’s “Banking on Detention” reports which incorporated information produced in our FOIA litigation, showing what has and can be achieved using FOIA.

Describe the skill level of this training and the intended audience.

This training is geared towards participants working on social justice issues – especially those working on immigrant rights, prison and detention issues. You don’t need to have any experience working with FOIA. Whether you are an activist, journalist, lawyer, organizer or community member, you will leave this training with the basics, creative ideas on how to use FOIA, and materials to help guide you after Netroots.

Why should the Netroots Nation community vote for your session?

Our approach to FOIA isn't just about government transparency. We develop the scope of FOIA requests in conjunction with our grassroots and community partners and litigate based on their advocacy goals. What information do they need to do their work most effectively? Participants will get a 101 course on writing FOIA requests, and we will situate that work in broader context by providing recent case studies of how FOIA has been strategically used as part of campaigns for social justice.

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