Advocacy Series: Advocacy for Beginners

We live in a democracy, and it takes a certain amount of citizen participation to make any democracy work.  I have decided to write a series on advocacy because many people do not become aware of issues until after the decision is made. Laws become passed and then affect lives before many people ever notice.

10825063-dictionary-definition-of-the-word-advocacy1Staying active on policy issues may be a chore for many, however, we live in a society where decisions are made by those that speak up.

There are many ways to stay current on issues in your area. You can register to the newsletters of those that represent you, find bills on the NCGA website, or “call to action” sites like Progress NC.

While calls to action are crucial, direct contact to your legislators are more important. Be strategic and contact your legislators when they are not in session, they will have more time to talk to you.. There are three main reasons or strategies to contact your legislators.

  •  To build the relationship
  • Provide them with information
  • Ask for action.

Politicians are less likely to listen to your call for action if they have never heard from you before, or if people only respond for a call to action like on a lobby day. Lobby days are a great way to get the message out that a lot of people feel strongly about something. However, it can be overwhelming for legislators and if you want them to have a personal response to your issue, it might be more effective to communicate with them when they are not so busy.

Take time to set up a meeting when they are not in Raleigh and in their home district. Schedule a meeting and introduce yourself, let them know you are a constituent, provide them with information that you know about. Developing a personal relationship is the most effective way to influence the legislators’ positions on an issue. Phone calls, faxes, e-mails and letters are all great but are not as effective as face-to-face meeting.  They are not experts and many times are so removed from the lives of “everyday people”, that they welcome any perspective or feedback.

Some things to remember…

  • Ask for your legislators’ view on an issue. Be kind and don’t react angrily if you don’t get the response you want. Stay calm and be polite always.
  • Use the specific bill or legislative action. Give several brief points why your member should support this legislation.
  • Research your issue and back to them if you cannot provide information about an issue on the spot.
  • Remember to say thank you; and send a thank you note after your visit. This letter helps build a relationship over time with the legislator.

Whatever your preferred method, communication is key for having the society that we want.  Next in the series Tactics and Strategy in Advocacy.

Social Work and Social Media: Tools for Networking and E-Advocacy

There are lots of resources for individuals who are concerned about the fears and ethical use of social media in practice. However, there does not seem to be an equal amount of resources teaching social work and social media, and how they both can be combined for effective networking and online advocacy.

Technology has given us the ability to remove geographically boundaries and connect with others in way that is still very new to us.  However, this same technology has been exploited by the criminal element which has created many fears in using technology for its full capabilities.

Technology has the ability to create new ways of communication that has been previously denied to those without privilege or wealth such as the ability to self-publish, communication with someone abroad in real-time, and gather/organize resources quickly. How can our profession begin to adopt the technological tools utilized in the business world and adapt them to increase our ability to be more effective on the macro, mezzo, and micro practice levels?

There are instances where social work and social media, depending on your job descriptions and direct practice with clients, must adhere to a stricter standard due to safety concerns for the social worker and client confidentiality.

For those who are working on a policy and community practice level, social work and social media is essential in carving yourself as an expert in your field as well giving you the ability to mobilize resources quickly. NASW-NC gives five reasons why social work and social media is an essential combination to aid social workers in their networking potential which are listed below:

  • Opportunity: Anytime you are around others (virtually or in person), you have the opportunity to meet people and uncover what they make have to offer to your life!
  • Exposure: Have you written new research? Starting a new practice? Found a new technique to share? Networking provides the opportunity to expose others to the wealth of professional knowledge you have, and to be exposed to theirs!
  • Contacts and Relationships: Whether finding a new job, a resource for your clients, or simply someone who simplifies your life; contacts are an essential part of the social work profession. Most business is done through referrals!
  • Finding Common Ground: Everyone enjoys the company of others who are like-minded. Our common interests help ignite our passion for the profession and encourage personal growth.
  • Learning: In the line for breakfast at a NASW-NC Conference, or answering a post on LinkedIn; social workers who participate in networking gather information and ideas at a fast pace! knowledge is power!
  • See more at:

[gview file=”http://careers.socialworkers.org/documents/networking.pdf”]

Also View:
E-Politics.com Online Advocacy

photo credit: Intersection Consulting via photopin cc

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