Transforming Passion into Action through Advocacy

Advocacy is the pursuit of influencing outcomes - including public-policy and resource allocation decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions - that directly affect people’s current lives. (Cohen, D., R. de la Vega, G. Watson 2001: Advocacy for Social Justice. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press) Advocacy is a political process. It may be motivated from moral, ethical or faith principles or simply to protect an asset of interest. Therefore, advocacy can be seen as a deliberate process of speaking out on issues of concern in order to exert some influence on behalf of ideas or persons. Based on this definition, Cohen (2001) states that ‘tideologues of all persuasions advocate” to bring a change in people’s lives. However, advocacy has many interpretations depending on the issue at stake, which can be different from this initial value-neutral definition.

There are several forms of advocacy, which each represent a different approach in the way change is brought
into society. One of the most popular forms is social justice advocacy. Although it is true, the initial definition
does not encompass the notions of power relations, people’s participation and a vision of a just society that
promoted by social justice advocates. For them, advocacy represents the series of actions taken and issues
highlighted to change the “what is” into a “what should be”, considering that this “what should be” is a more
decent and a more just society. Cohen (2001) Those actions, which vary with the political, economic and social
environment in which they are conducted, have several points in common. They:
•  Question the way policy is administered
•  Participate in the agenda setting as they raise significant issues
•  Target political systems “because those systems are not responding to people’s needs”
•  Advocacy is inclusive and engaging
•  Propose policy solutions
•  Open up space for public argumentation

Advocacy can include many activities that a person or organisation undertakes including lobbying, media campaigns, public speaking, commissioning and publishing research, protests and mass demonstrations, petitions, letter writing etc. Lobbying is a form of advocacy where a direct approach is made to legislators on an issue which plays a significant role in modern politics. In the current political system in the UK it also involves responding to government consultations regarding potential areas of legislative change and/or attempting to influence the actual proposed legislation as it wends its way through the various stages of readings and committees within both the Houses of Commons and Lords.

Within the institute we have become increasingly involved in advocacy work, particularly lobbying at national, European and UN levels, mostly regarding issues effecting vulnerable women and the criminal justice system. To this end we have completed consultations on prostitution, trafficking, ASBO’s, the review of the criminal justice system, immigration etc.

We were part of lobbying the UN to get a convention of rights for older people and to create the position of a Special Rapporteur for Older People.

Our Sisters and Associates get involved in lobbying at local national and international level through postcard and letter campaigns, particularly about issues involving women, children, God’s creation and poverty.

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