Advocacy is an incredibly powerful tool for creating social change, with movements such as ‘MeToo’ and ‘Black Live Matters’ being widely supported to advocate for those who have an under-represented voice.
Advocacy is defined as, “the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal”, according to Miriam Webster. At our recent For Purpose Tuesday event, Jane Trenaman, our For Purpose mentor, described advocacy at 3 levels: self-advocacy, advocating for a specific cause and advocating for the social impact sector. Each element of advocacy is extremely important for powerful social change.
How we advocate for ourselves as individuals should not be overlooked. Holding positive belief in yourself to advocate and create social change is not only important for your own self-esteem, but for those you are advocating on behalf of.
Self-advocacy means knowing your rights, your worth and contributions, speaking up for yourself, and taking action. It is also important to have:
• Assertive communication,
• Moral courage,
• Belief in your experience, opportunities and genetics,
It is worth noting that some people naturally possess these traits, due to experience, genetics or opportunities. However, it is important to take time to self-reflect on how you can develop your strengths, and take small steps to improve any weaknesses. Oftentimes, people want to advocate for others, but do not have the confidence to do so. Small changes such as pushing yourself slightly out of your comfort zone, listening to confidence/mindset podcasts, or even watching short videos such as ‘Amy Cuddy – More confidence in 2 minutes’, could help.
Taking these small steps can make a big difference when advocating for yourself. Improving your abilities, mindset and qualities will help make you an advocate for yourself, and place you in a better position to advocate for others.
Advocating for a specific cause
If we are in a privileged position where we advocate for ourselves and have a voice, it is important to advocate for those who don’t have a voice. Movements such as ‘MeToo’ and ‘Black Live Matters’ were supported widely to advocate for those who have an under-represented voice in society. Amplifying their unheard voices has contributed to powerful systemic change in the past, and continues to do so.
Align yourself, or your organisation, with a cause that you truly believe in. Powerful change can be created through holding individuals accountable, influencing policy through lobbying and creating partnerships with government stakeholders.
Advocating for the social impact sector
The social impact sector works continually towards achieving social change. Nonprofit and charitable organisations have a clear mission and vision on what social issue they want to help combat and therefore, is important to be an advocate for the broader sector. Oftentimes, it debated whether charities have the ‘right’ to have a presence in the political sphere. However, once an organisation is clear about their mission and the change that needs to happen to facilitate it, this is exactly the space in which they should be.
It is so important to be an advocate for yourself, for those who do not have a voice and for the broader social impact sector. Remember that advocacy is a long-term effort, and change may take time. Stay focused on your goals and keep working towards them, even in the face of obstacles.
Key points, research and expertise provided by Jane Trenaman, Nonprofit Leadership & Fundraising Consultant and For Purpose Mentor.