A lot of the time when we think about advocacy we think about protests and demonstrations and mass movements and sudden, almost unexpected, social change - a change in perspective, a change in attitude, laws repealed, rights granted. But that's just one of the more visible aspects of advocacy. Advocacy itself is very seldom a spontaneous process.
And it is also a deeply integrated part of almost everything we do. In our development work, relief work, humanitarian work and even in our day-to-day lives we are always, in a sense, advocating, either to meet our own needs or to support the rights and needs of others.
In this course, we are going to unpack a lot of the ideas that we may be holding around advocacy and the idea that advocacy is always about direct action. And we are going to be working through the concept of what we mean by 'an advocate' and what we mean by advocacy.
A lot of advocacy is around gathering information and having the right facts, and using information and facts to persuade others before we move onto trying to push for change in a visible or public way. A lot of advocacy is done 'behind the scenes', in the background, through lobbying, and through persuading and giving information and presenting the facts and drawing attention to the situation.
So, we are going to firstly really unpack what we mean by an 'advocate' and what we mean by 'advocacy'.
We are then going to move into looking at advocacy research and what that means: what are the questions that we need to have answered before we can begin - - understanding the context and the background and the history of the situation, and how people are affected.
And then, how do we fill in those gaps in our knowledge? What tools do we use to collect that information so that we have a very strong case for advocacy? And we also have to be careful - making sure that the information we get is true, and doesn't put others in danger or at risk.
We'll be looking at some guidelines for effective advocacy and we are going to see which of those apply to you and which don't. And what other guidelines you might have. Because we all work in very different situations. Some of us work in very safe situations where our right to advocate is protected by law. And others may be working in places where the issue - or the actual act of advocacy itself - can put us or others in actual danger of perhaps imprisonment or, not just losing our freedom, but losing our lives. So we have a wide range of different environments in which advocacy can take place.
And we will be looking at the main techniques and tactics for advocacy. And we will see also how they move along a spectrum from the least antagonistic to the most direct, protest-style tactics.
So advocacy is not about protest. Protest is often when everything else has failed, and the cause is fully right and people are sick and tired of how things are. Protest is often the culmination of a lot of other steps that we have tested and tried.
Because, as advocates we want to be - to the extent possible - we want to be peaceful. We don't want to impose change. We want to wake up the inner sense of justice among the wider population and decision-makers, to bring about an improvement in the environment, an improvement in our rights situation, or an improvement in people's lives.
That means getting our tactics right. That means that we don't put ourselves in areas where we don't have the skills or we don't have the support or we don't have the perseverance or the contacts to make that particular tactic effective. And doing things which 'sit right' with us and 'sit right' with our supporters and 'sit right' with our members.
Going it alone is always risky. We need allies. Allies are people who may share some or all of our values and can bring something to our advocacy effort. So how do we identify who is out there and who can be our ally and supporter? And what is the best way to engage with them if we decide to do that?
And just as we may have allies, we may have opponents - people who are invested in things not changing. They may have a financial investment. They may have an emotional investment. They may have an investment in power. Or they may simply be ignorant and lack information.
But how do we identify who is our opponent? Who is standing in our way? Who is going to slow us down?
How are they likely to respond to us? They may deny the problem exists or actively try to destroy our reputation. They may want to throw your members into prison. How can we anticipate what they might do and plan for resistance?
Planning for resistance is usually, again, in the least antagonistic and aggressive way possible, steering the conversation always back away from personal attacks, towards the issue - when disinformation is being spread, bringing to light the true information.
And, once we have worked through all of these steps we are going to look at how we can develop an advocacy plan. What is our goal? What are the things we need to achieve on the way to get there? How will we know that we have succeeded? Who is responsible? When does it need to be done? A simple strategic plan for advocacy.