Many of the workshop attendees were advocates of various causes, social workers or employees of organizations involved in health or welfare issues. Smith said he expects individuals and families affected by state policies to take a more prominent role beginning with the September symposium.
Another advocate, speaking at the Beckley workshop about the need for raising the state minimum wage, said it is one thing for an advocate to extol the virtues of a higher minimum wage but it is more powerful when an affected family explains what a minimum wage increase would mean to them.
The speaker said it also would be powerful if a business owner explained what an increase would do for their employees.
Assuming advocates get their to-do lists done and make presentations at the September symposium, the next hurdle will come when participants meet on Dec. 13. That is when they will vote on the 18 or so policies that have been explored, selecting four or five to pursue in the 2014 session of the Legislature.
Will the movement achieve enough commitment that participants will remain active if their issue didn't make the cut? What about participants whose issue makes the cut, but whose ideas for policy change did not prevail?
And then there's the challenge of getting the Legislature to act when it convenes early next year. As Stephen Smith pointed out at the Bridgeport workshop, "When we go into policy change, we're essentially picking fights because we know there are people on the other side."
When advocates of the status quo come out of the woodwork and rally their forces, will the agents for change have the stamina, persuasive power, political allies and money needed to win?
Smith has noted that if they do win, the fight won't be over. "Winning legislative change is not the same as getting change implemented," he said. "Getting it implemented is a whole other fight."
Legislators and opponents can monitor the "Our Children, Our Future" movement during the next three months, watching to see if the individual supporters' commitment to the overall movement is strong enough to withstand the challenges it faces before the 2014 session of the West Virginia Legislature.
Speaking about "Our Children, Our Future," Smith said standing together is the only real hope for success.
"It was realized about a year ago that, working in isolation, we are failing our kids," Smith said. "We need a statewide voice of and for families. We don't have the power to do any of the things we want to do unless we work together."