We generated information and knowledge from a combination of different pieces of work in relation to:
- The nature and extent of social justice advocacy work undertaken by the community and voluntary sector
- Relationships between the community and voluntary sector and the state
- Relations between the community and voluntary sector and others (including the media, the trade unions and the general public)
Nature & context of social justice advocacy
39% of the community and voluntary organisations surveyed as part of the 2012 Mapping Study are engaged in social justice advocacy work. Areas these organisations worked in included: social services (25%); community development & housing (22%); and education and research (13%). Interestingly the majority of the organisations who undertook social justice advocacy also provided services and were more likely to work in urban rather than rural locations.
We found that much of the social justice advocacy work undertaken by organisations took place at local level (50%), with a smaller percentage occurring at national (32%), regional (10%) and international levels (7%). A wide range of advocacy strategies and techniques were used, split evenly between activities that engage with the decision making system (insider) and those that sought to influence the decision making system from outside (outsider). Among the most popular types of undertaken included:
- Public information and awareness-raising
- Participation in local and regional committees
- Membership of national networks
Organisations reported they were doing more social justice advocacy work generally and specifically more ‘insider’ focused activities than they had been in the past. About half of the work being undertaken was planned while the remainder were unplanned responses to particular situations or opportunities. Almost half of the planned work related to information and awareness raising, while the rest focused on influencing the implementation and legislative process, new policy development and the protection of existing policy.
An increasing number of community and voluntary sector organisations had become involved in national and EU coalitions, alliances and/or networks in order to progress their advocacy work. There was a view that it was safer to be part of a group that to go it alone when undertaking advocacy work in the current climate, with collaboration considered the key response to the challenges facing advocacy.
We found that some groups prioritised issues through a strategic planning process, while others prioritised based on feedback from staff and members/clients. Public support for advocacy was generally mobilised by either holding an information meeting or running a media campaign, while membership organisations tended to mobilise their members by actively involving them in campaigns or policy briefings. Social media was regarded as an increasingly important tool for advocacy work.
At our 2nd Knoweldge Exchange Forum we explored lessons learned from e-advocacy through social media. The workshop report and videos of the presentation by the speakers can be viewed through the links in the side-bar.