All our learning lead to the identification of six key themes for social justice advocacy and for those charged with developing public policy. Social justice advocates recognise their deep responsibility to be the best they possibly can be, these challenges will continue to be live issues into the future. The themes are:

Awareness and understanding

Community and voluntary sector advocacy work is not well understood, particularly outside of policy and decision making circles. The Advocacy Initiative’s definition of social justice advocacy, has (if widely adopted by the sector) the capacity to increase levels of understanding of social justice advocacy is and its role in wider civil society.

Credibility and legitimacy

Policy-makers and influencers have concerns in relation to where community and voluntary sector organisations engaged in social justice advocacy work get their mandate and who exactly they represent. Questions have been raised in relation to whether in relation to whether the professionalisation of the community and voluntary sector has led some organisations to become more focused on sustaining the organisation than representing its membership.

Relationship building and trust

The issue of a lack of respect arose frequently within work undertaken by The Advocacy Initiative. Research found a lack of acceptance among some policy-makers that the sector had a role and contribution to make to the policy making process. Policy-makers reported being frustrated by the community and voluntary sector as a result of their constant criticism, the lack of acknowledgement when progress is made and a lack of understanding about how the policy making system works and of its unwritten rules and etiquette. In a post-partnership era opportunities for policy-makers and representatives from the community and voluntary sector to meet have become more limited.


Skills and knowledge deficits were identified within the community and voluntary sector in relation to their understanding of:

  1. The policy making system

  2. Strategic planning

  3. Advocacy techniques (including how the voice of their members and service users can be used more in advocacy work)

Commitment and resources are required to address these deficits and to ensure that the sector can advocate effectively.

Effective strategies

There is a lack of clarity in relation to what constitutes effective and impactful social justice advocacy work. Sometimes the sector is not proactive nor strategic enough in the way that it approaches its social justice advocacy work. The focus of The Advocacy Initiative has been on the application and use of insider approaches, but there is also scope for the selective use of more outsider approaches. The challenge is to find the balance between insider and outsider strategies


The case as to why the state should fund the community and voluntary sector social justice advocacy work is centered around the belief that this work has the capacity to:

  1. Mobilise citizens, channel participation and promote cohesion
  2. Improve policies: by bringing additional information, expertise  and solutions to government
  3. Promote a longer-term perspective beyond the five-year electoral cycle of government
  4. Act as watchdogs of accountability improving both the surveillance and accountability of government.
  5. Enable minority views to be heard
  6. Provide ‘ground truth’ to government.
  7. Provide a two way channel of communication from government to people and vice versa
  8. Play a role in monitoring, implementation and enforcement.                     
There is a concern that state funding for this type of work can undermine independence (The Advocacy Initiative found examples of where state funding did and did not impose some degree of constraint on social justice advocacy work ranging from mild inhibition to complete suppression).
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