At the outset of The Advocacy Initiative there were unknowns, with more questions than answers. In order to focus our direction we considered to key questions:
- What is social justice advocacy?
- Who is involved in social justice advocacy?
These questions sought to discover what the term advocacy meant in an Irish context, who was doing it, why they were doing it and what impact it was having on the different sections of civil society. This section provides answers to these important questions and outlines the importance of social justice advocacy in creating a fair and equal society.
What is advocacy?
The word advocacy comes from the Greek word ‘ad vocare’ which means ‘towards a voice’. Advocacy is all about giving voice to/on behalf of an individual or a group/s, in order to promote and achieve positive change/s in relation to:
- Public policy and practice
- Corporate policy and practice
- Public attitudes and behaviour
- Resource allocations
- Power and relationships
- Decision making processes so that affected communities are involved
- Empowering affected communities to influence the decisions that affect them
We found many different forms of advocacy including:
- ‘Insider’/‘internal’ activities, in which organisations participate within official policy-making spaces (engaging with politicians, civil servants and policy influencers), through writing submissions to government, face to face meetings, sitting on government committees, etc. We identified lobbying as a part of ‘insider’ advocacy work as it involves influencing specific legislation or a policy process, such as the annual budget.
- ‘Outsider’/’external’ activities, including public and media campaigns as well as more radical activities like street protests or occupying spaces.
In hindsight we probably focused more on insider than outsider strategies because that was what our members were most interested in.