As social workers, we have a duty to make sure our clients are treated with dignity and respect, in addition to providing advocacy and fighting for social justice. Part of our role as advocates and social workers is to evaluate the needs of our “clients” and the policies that may affect them and service delivery. We must be mindful that the needs of vulnerable populations continue to grow in difficult economic times especially when programs for low-income families are the firs to be cut.
I started the beginning of the advocacy series with an overview of how advocacy influences policy. This article will take you a bit further by giving you strategies, targets and tactics as well as some ideas on how to market your cause.
There are many reasons why some people advocate which include things such as equity in health care, income disparity, education equality, and public awareness. There are several types of people whom make persuasive arguments as advocates which include:
- Those who share a personal connection with the issue
- Those who could be impacted by the issue
- Anyone who wants to make a difference
Strategy – What are you advocating?
If you have decided there is an issue worth fighting for, then you need a strategy for a plan of action. An advocacy strategy typically is an approach aimed at persuading someone in power, usually in government or corporate, to change action for the public interest.
Without a clear obtainable goal, your advocacy plan will lack purpose. You must first analyze the problem and decide what kind of solution is within your spoke of experience. This is for both short and long term goals. A short-term goal has a more immediate resolution and may be only a one step plan. A long-term goal is one you eventually hope to obtain, and it usually has many factors to address.
If the issue you are advocating is controversial or not supported by the community, you will need a longer time frame to make any affect. Also, you must frame the issue in a way that will gain the most support depending on whom you are targeting at the time. However, you do not want to use a “cookie cutter” approach to all your advocacy efforts.
In addition to analyzing the issue, research the counterpoints to your cause in order to be effective in presenting your issue. You must have knowledge of both sides of the discussion. Remember, if there wasn’t an opposing view, there wouldn’t be a problem to begin with.
Make sure your key points:
- Are easy to understand
- Have a clear target
- Result in meaningful life improvements
- Instill a sense of power to the powerless
Targets – Who are the key players?
Targets are people who have a stake in the proposed change. Identifying the key players is crucial in determining the potential success of your advocacy efforts as well as knowing how to present information to them. Determine which of these targets would have an interest to advance or protect your issue as allies. In addition, research those in opposition to your issue, and look at your issue from their perspective.
Possible stakeholders could include:
- Elected officials
- Federal, state, and local government
- Religious, civic, public and private
- Media outlets
- Television, radio, print, internet
- Family, friends, co-workers
Tactics- What’s the most creative way to make a point?
So, you have a cause and a plan. Now all you need is to carry it out. Tactics are activities used to influence targets to produce the desired change. This is when advocacy can be very creative and fun. Tactics can be as simple as requesting a meeting to more creative activities such as a candle light vigil or a flash mob. Some advocacy groups have used innovative tactics such as displaying a life size Chutes and Ladder’s game to promote policy change for youth.
Some examples of tactics include:
- Face-to-face meetings
- Appointments with officials
- Rallies /Demonstrations
- Advocacy days
- Facebook, Twitter & YouTube
- Phone calls
- Writing campaigns
- Letters to the Editor and to officials
- Media coverage
- Grassroots, door to door campaigns
Building relationships is one of the most important things you can do in your advocacy campaign. Even with your opponents, you want to create a relationship where they welcome the opportunity to speak with you again. Also, follow up with the targets you have spoken too by sending them a thank you letter, email or phone call. Remember to provide a debriefing with allies and other participants to discuss where to go forward. This will also help to establish any new networks that have become supporters.
Stay connected to your supporters you will ensure your cause will grow!