Who Are You Calling a Wonk?

What’s a “policy wonk”? Well, actually what’s a “wonk”? This was the question that came up at the great “New Contractor Orientation” held by LA Tobacco Control and Prevention which I participated in on Tuesday.

It’s a relevant question at a time when so many Prop 99-ers are starting new contracts — perhaps in new cities and perhaps in new issue areas.

Well, so what’s a wonk? An eccentric chocolate genius? A cuddly Koala-like bear?

Well, no. Actually the dictionary says a wonk is “one who studies an issue or a topic thoroughly or excessively.” And so a policy wonk is “a person who studies or develops strategies and policies, especially one who has a keen interest in and aptitude for technical details.”

And so actually YOU should be a policy wonk. Your coalition members are going to promote strong tobacco control policies. Maybe they can lobby or maybe they’ll be educating elected officials on behalf of their organization. But your role is to be the policy wonk. To be the expert. To be able to answer any technical questions that may come up in a meeting with an elected official. To know the intricate details of your issue that your coalition members don’t have time to learn.

So can I call you a wonk?

FYI – The Center has several resources on “Becoming a Policy Wonk” in housing, licensing, and outdoor areas.

Vanessa Marvin


  1. Posted Jul 14, 2010 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    Found a great definition of the word at http://www.americanwonks.com

  2. Vanessa
    Posted Jul 14, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    That’s a good definition Joshua, much more flattering than some of them I found online!

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