Social Media Intervention for EIBI Funding

KSurette    November 12, 2014

Support Early Intervention image

Organization Name:  Support Early Intervention 

Industry:  Advocacy

 Name of contact:  Allison Garber

 Web references:  Support Early Intervention; Support Early Intervention Facebook page

Businesses and organizations are increasingly using social media marketing to brand themselves and increase awareness of their products/services.   Similarly, governments and political parties are using social media to engage individuals in conversations about policy positions/decisions.  For non-profit organizations and community groups, social media marketing has allowed for an easier awareness of their raison d’être.  What about individual members of the community fighting for a cause they believe in – how can social media marketing help them advance their goal?

In May, 2014 Allison Garber and Jen Morris started a movement to lobby the Nova Scotia Government to increase funding levels for much-needed help for children with autism.  Allison and Jen each have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and fully realized the value of early intervention.  At the time they applied to have their children participate in the province’s Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) program, the lengthy wait list meant their children would have to wait to receive the much-needed benefits of the program.  The wait list was almost double the amount of children participating in the program.  That was unacceptable to them, and so the Support Early Intervention campaign was born.

Social Media Momentum
When you think of social media marketing,  you instantly think of a more conventional arrangement where a company or organization is bringing awareness to its products or services, with the goal of increasing sales.  For people advocating for a particular cause, social media marketing takes on a whole new role:  the goal of engagement through social media becomes one of “selling” people on the cause you are fighting for and “selling” them on the need to take some action.  For advocacy work, social media marketing should be viewed more as an engagement strategy to create momentum for a cause, with a call to action.

Ally and Jen realized that, for their campaign to truly become successful, they had to engage their audience through social media.  To coincide with their participation in a CBC story about the long wait list for the EIBI program, Ally and Jen created a website and Facebook page, and used their combined network to call on their friends  and the public to sign their online petition requesting increased funding from government for the program.

As a PR professional…I knew I wanted to have some sort of tangible support mechanism that was going to help put our message forward.  Overnight, we built a website, we launched a petition through, and we were able to have those support materials ready to go when we did the interview with CBC. {Source: interview with Allison Garber}

VIDEO:  CBC News NS – Treatment wait times for kids with autism ‘excruciating’

Their social media activity didn’t stop with the creation of the website, Facebook page and online petition.  Ally and Jen kept their online community updated on their progress throughout the campaign.  Friends, family and supporters of the Support Early Intervention campaign were able to follow their mainstream media activities through links they shared on the campaign website and in Facebook.

Support Early Intervention - We've Reached 1000Support Early Intervention - tweet
Support Early Intervention Facebook pages

Ally took the opportunity to write an Op/Ed piece for the Halifax Chronicle Herald, informing readers of the campaign and the online petition.  She criticized the government’s approach to funding the EIBI program, and called on the Liberals to honour their election campaign commitment to early intervention.

 The Chronicle Herald – Opinion – ‘Fingers crossed’ strategy on autism won’t cut it

Both Ally and Jen seized every occasion they could to speak about the EIBI program and the need for additional funding from the province to expand the number of children able to access the program.

CBC Radio - Maritime Connection
AUDIO:  CBC Radio – Maritime Connection:  Do we dedicate enough resources to treat children with autism?

VIDEO:  Global News – Mother describes ‘troubling’ wait times for autism intervention program

Rick Howe
AUDIO:  News 95.7 – The Rick Howe Show – July 18

Ally credits the buzz their engagement in social media created with their success in securing a meeting with the Minister of Health and Wellness in June to push for more funding.

But they have not achieved the results that they wanted.

Nova Scotia press release – Expert Panel to Advise Government on Autism Wait List – Sept 19

CBC NS Newsmake interview
VIDEO:  CBC News Nova Scotia – Newsmaker Allison Garber

There has been some positive developments.  Both Hughie and Jen’s daughter, Sadie, have begun the EIBI program.  Both are making remarkable progress in the program, and Ally says you can see Hughie’s confidence growing daily.  Hughie even helped develop a t-shirt promoting autism awareness

Hughie's t-shirt
Autism awareness superhero t-shirt

Although their children are enrolled in the EIBI program, Ally and Jen are not giving up the campaign.

We’ve built this {online} community.   We’ve found that the community is always looking for helpful information and resources….We want to evolve this sense of community. (Source: interview with Allison Garber)

Support Early Intervention - Still Waiting.

screen shot of Support Early Intervention website

Support Early Intervention - advice
screen shot of Support Early Intervention Facebook page

CTV News image
VIDEO:  CTV News Atlantic – Focusing on autism

Lessons for others
Ally believes the use of social media was a tremendous boost to their campaign, and is grateful they developed their social media tools early.

 It speaks volumes about the magic of social media.  It allowed us to get a tremendous amount of support for our petition. (Source:  interview with Allison Garber)

Others advocating for change, like Ally and Jen are, would do well to take a page from their playbook.

AUDIO – Interview with Allison Garber

Autism Nova Scotia

 CBC News Nova Scotia

CTV News Atlantic

Global News Halifax

The Chronicle Herald

Nova Scotia Government

Submitted By:  Kevin R. Surette – SMBP Student, University of Waterloo.

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