We found that organisations engaged in advocacy on the belief that by engaging in the public sphere, they could influence public policy and/or key decisions makers or institutional elites. We found that these organisations directed their efforts at a range of audiences and sought to use ideas and speech to shape the environment in which they operated. While direct service programmes changes the world one client at a time, advocacy efforts generally focus on broad changes in systems and policy.
Organisations engaged in social justice advocacy work in order to represent and articulate positions on behalf of excluded and/or vulnerable group/s believing that advocacy is a way of achieving substantial leverage. According to our research Funding Dissent: Research into the impact on advocacy of state funding of voluntary and community organisations it can:
- Mobilise citizens: Channel participation and promote cohesion, giving voice to those who are under or unrepresented in policy making.
- Improve policies: Organisations can bring a broad range of information, options and solutions to government, improving the quality of the decisions subsequently taken and enabling government to avoid unintended and negative consequences.
- Provide expertise: Government cannot be expected to have the range of staff and skills to define and administer policy on its own, but social justice advocacy organisations often have these resources, which can be quite technical and important for improving the quality of decisions.
- Promote a longer-term perspective: Provide analysis and solutions to problems that extend beyond the five-year electoral cycle of government.
- Act as watchdogs of accountability: Improve the surveillance and accountability of government.
- Enable minority views to be heard: Include perspectives that might otherwise be overlooked.
- Provide ‘ground truth’ to government about situations of which it would not otherwise be aware: Related to this, as they seek to get fresh issues on the political agenda, they can serve as an early warning to government of upcoming issues that must be addressed.
- Communication and buy-in: Provide an important channel of communication from government to people and vice versa, including the achievement of buy-in or acquiescence in complex and difficult decisions.
- Role in the monitoring, implementation and enforcement of government decisions (laws, policies, procedures, protocols, strategies).