The ONE thing for 2014

It’s a New Year.  For a lot of people that means “new” things. New things to do, new things not to do.  We often resolve to make these “things” happen, or not happen.

But, really, it’s usually about making a change.  The best way to make a lasting change is to focus on ONE THING.  Yep, one change at a time.  

Two of my favorite leadership authors, Chip and Dan Heath, wrote an entire book about lasting change and how to make it happen.  A great read for the New Year.



As you challenge yourself to change ONE thing this year, consider the impact you could have by simply resolving to tell your story!  In February, the Pediatric Congenital Heart Association will have it’s website and several of its programs up and running.  Included will be many opportunities to tell your story. So you’ve got a month:




2013 Social Media Top 5 – (A little late…)

While I was writing my New Year’s post, I realized I had failed to properly acknowledge last year.

Last year’s resolution was to start, and maintain a blog.  Well…  Like most resolutions I started strong.


And then, failed miserably. But, we need to celebrate our success right?  So, I scoured all social media activity this year, and there were a few bright spots:

5. The Funnel Perspective


Yes, there are times when life around us resembles a tornado.  Read more.

4. Advocacy Day 2013


 There were many great posts about 2013 Advocacy Day but this one was everyone’s favorite.  Advocacy really is fun!!

3. The Power of the People


You are the ones that make all the difference!  Read more.

2. Research and Recommendations

New research and new guidelines – lots of progress in 2013.  A few of the favorites include exercise guidelines, a neurodevelopmental outcomes study, and a statement about prevention and treatment for thrombosis.

1. Awareness American Girl Style

AG Awareness

Can we end the year any better than this?

So we’ll close out our reflection on 2013 with the most popular quote of the year:

I am one Graphic

Happy New Year everyone!!!

Wrapping Paper

I have never been good at surprises.  Keeping anything a secret is nearly impossible for me.  My kids have figured it out, too.  If I leave a gift wrapped present out, they quickly begin guessing and if they are even remotely close, I have to run and hide for fear of giving it away.  Just a thin sheet of paper between the unknown and a great surprise, and I am very capable of spoiling it.wrapped present

Being “in transition” with my advocacy work is a lot like holding a wrapped present – and a bit more difficult than I had expected.   For someone who likes to share (perhaps, too much?) I struggle, daily, with how much to reveal about what this transition process.


But, I can contain my excitement no longer…  I am so excited about a new project I am working on, with an amazing group of people.  Ah, there, I said it.

Here are a few more sketchy clues that I feel comfortable sharing at this point:

  • I am no longer working with the Adult Congenital Heart Association.
  • Yes, I will still be doing CHD advocacy – Are you kidding, I eat sleep and breathe it!
  • There will be a huge educational component, too.
  • The focus will be in the pediatric space, but there will definitely be life-long messaging.  It really is a continuous loop: to ensure that our kiddos grow up to be vibrant adults with CHD (ACHD) we need to understand the adult space in order to improve what we are doing in childhood.
  • We will all need to stand together to make this work!!!

As soon as the basic framework of the project is set in stone, trust me, I will shout it from the mountain tops.

In the meantime, find your inner child and start getting at least a little excited for what’s under the wrapping paper!



The power of the people (that’s you!)

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any. – Alice Walker

Ok – here it is… I am an advocate who loathes politics.

Why?  I believe in the system.  I really do.  But, I believe it has been corrupt by power and money and infrastructure.  It is no longer about representing the people, but representing the interests of those in power.  A compelling argument, from the people, no longer drives decisions.

I realize these are gross generalizations and that there are good guys out there.  Here’s the story of one.

I wanted to share this with you because I want to offer HOPE … hope that despite my pessimism you CAN and are making a difference.

I am still riding the high of having over 100 people in Washington D.C. telling their story about CHD (yes, I will write about it, eventually!)  Just listen to a few of the follow-up comments from those we met with:

“I know so much more about congenital heart disease because you came last year!  Thank you.”

“I have a sibling/friend/child with a heart defect. You guys are making such a difference.”

“Keep doing what you are doing.  Keep meeting with the legislators.  You are making a difference.”

You are making a difference.  Keep telling your story.   Fist Bump for encouragement… 🙂

Two hands: man and woman, isolated on white

The Funnel Perspective

funnel cloudThese past few weeks have seemed as though a tornado has swept through my life.  We all have those moments.  Sickness, deadlines, unexpected interruptions.  During these times, the only things that get done, are those few things that demand the most attention – kids who need to be fed and clothed, husband who needs to be loved, work deadlines – enough said.  Knitting and blogging had to wait.

But, when you think about it, this is a little bit how advocacy works.  The government is dealing with a bit of financial tornado right now – things like sequestration, the budget re-authorization and the debt ceiling.  All buzzwords that we may not understand, but realize that they certainly aren’t “feel-good” things.   So, during these times, its the things that demand the most attention that will get recognized.  That’s you and I.

I recently had the privilege to attend an advocate training summit for the National Patient Advocacy Foundation (NPAF). We learned about the NPAF priorities, and how to advocate for these issues at the state level.  Of particular interest was state implementation of aspects of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Health Care ReformIf this is an issue that is important to you, I would suggest visiting their website for more information.

The format of this meeting allowed for excellent advocate interaction and discussion.  One of the topics that I was charged with leading was about the identification of advocacy priorities.  As we were talking, I doodled a picture on a piece of scratch paper which ended up becoming a big hit.  Bare with me, as this idea is a work in progress, but I wanted to share it with you.

It’s a funnel in it’s own right, just a bit more practical than a tornado.

Priorities Funnel

At the top we start with the Patient Issues.  If you think about CHD, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of things we could list off that we could improve in the lives of those living with CHD and those to be born with a heart defect.  An advocacy organization gathers the issues of concern from many sources including what patients and medical professionals tell them are problems.

Then, the issues are filtered down to develop Organizational Priorities.  First and foremost, groups assess whether the issue raised fits with-in the organizational mission.  They look at legislative feasibility, or whether this issue can effectively be addressed through the legislative process. They also assess the impact of the issue in comparison with other pressing concerns.  They look at who potential partners could be and opportunities for coalition building, whether we need to champion the issue or if someone else can take the lead.  And finally, resources are considered – how much time, effort and money will it take to reach out goal.

A given organization may end up with anywhere from a handful to several dozen priorities.  Many of these priorities can be addressed by working directly with legislators, federal agencies or strategic partners.

However, there are definitely cases where advocate involvement is essential to the success of the efforts.  These issues are considered advocate priorities.  They are selected based on timing and the current state of governmental affairs, as well as availability of advocates and the nature of their personal story.

The advocate priorities may seem limited in number, but this is a good thing.  It is a lot of work for an advocate to learn about an issue.  It is important for the advocate to have knowledge of the legislator’s position on the issue, as well.  The volunteer time and energy of advocates are valuable and should be maximized on a few pointed issues.

So there you have it.  Probably a bit more detail than many of you need, but alas, these are the kinds of things I think about… a lot.  🙂

Awareness Week – Don’t forget the ask!

There are many fabulous CHD Awareness effortProfile pics out there.  I love to see all the red on my Facebook Page.  There are also many efforts happening outside of social media – in the schools, in the malls, in the hospitals.  AMAZING!!

We can also use this opportunity to move people to action.  Raising awareness is great, but we want people to do something about it!!!!  So as you promote the week, don’t forget to ask your audience to do something…

Here are a few ideas-

  • Discover how many people they know with CHD– it really personalizes the “almost 1 in 100” and “over 2 million” statistics.
  • Donate – To research, to support, to advocacy, even just a few dollars can make a huge difference.  There are many worthy organizations out there.
  • Tell their story – it can be very difficult for someone with CHD to share their experience.  By telling one new person their story, they can make a world of difference
  • Write their members of Congress – Of course, I had to include this!!!  They can write a simple note reminding them it is Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week.

Raising awareness is critical – moving people to action gets results!!!

YOUR TURN –  Share with us your awareness activities and how you included an “ask!”

A Policy Agenda: A sticky note lover’s dream!

sticky notesI love sticky notes.  I mean I really love sticky notes.  (Well, actually, I love office supplies in general, but that is another story.)   I even have sticky note apps for my desktop and phone!!  The reason for my obsession:  I have many random thoughts throughout the day, and I often panic that I may lose one of these  gems, so I write them down.  I have sticky notes with lists, names, numbers, random thoughts, you name it.

If you were to look at the notes I have written over the years.  You will find a few that contain to-do lists for the day, some with to-do lists for the year, and one or two contain my “bucket list.”  In fact, I share the spirit of this quote:

“If you have a goal, write it down. If you do not write it down, you do not have a goal — you have a wish.” — Steve Maraboli

We can apply this same line of thinking to advocacy.  If we want to accomplish something with all of our advocacy efforts, we have to have wish, then write it down to make a goal.  Then we can work on the plans to accomplish this goal.

A policy agenda is a road map for advocacy work for 2013.  It keeps us focused, but also lets the world know what they are working on.

Your turn: If you could write your advocacy agenda, what would you include?  What do you want to fight for?

By popular demand… press release:

Thanks to Mended Little Hearts for the original template:  I modified it a bit for  CHD Awareness week. As I was typing this, it also dawned on me that you should contact your governor or city official’s office and see if they will submit the press release.  Much more likely to be picked up. 🙂

Include things like:


Amy Basken
Congenital Heart Disease Advocate (If you have an official title, I would use it)
363 Park Avenue
Prairie du Sac, WI 53578 (I love mail!)
(608) 370-3739

Governor Proclaims February 7-14 Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Week.

Madison, WI,  February 1, 2013.   Governor Scott Walker once again signed a public proclamation recognizing the number 1 birth defect in America, affecting 1 in 110 babies born each year.  Congenital heart defects (CHD) is the leading cause of birth defect related death in infants and CHD claims the lives of twice as many children as all forms of childhood cancer combined.  10% of those born with a CHD will not live to see their 18th birthday.  Even in adulthood, CHD remains a leading cause of death and is the number one heart problem for pregnant women.

Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week is designed to bring attention to this serious issue.  Children diagnosed with a heart defect can have astonishing needs throughout their lifetime, ranging from multiple invasive procedures such as open-heart surgery to daily therapies for breathing and physical rehabilitation.  This takes a toll on school and work life, as well.  CHD is a costly diagnosis both emotionally and financially.

[Insert personal story here if appropriate – keep it short!]

For more information about Congenital Heart Awareness Week and how to get involved with CHD Advocacy, visit [change to your organization and your website]

About Amy: [you or your organizations] Amy is a tireless advocate whose youngest of 3 was born with a serious heart defect over 8 years ago. Amy works to use her experience to ensure that those living with CHD have a long and healthy life. Amy has the privilege to work with lawmakers, federal agencies and major health organizations to create, fund and implement public policy related to CHD. She also works to educate and motivate advocates to share their story to make a difference.

Hang tight…

I am working on an action alert at ACHA.  It should go out on Thursday and I will post here.  If I come across anything in the meantime, I will be sure to let you know!!!

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