At a time in the world where there are so many issues calling out for our attention, it is hard to know where to put one’s energy. I have written before about how to recognize issues requiring advocacy. (Four years later, Paul Corby is still awaiting entry into a heart transplant program.) Wherever someone is considered “less than,” injustice is occurring. Whenever someone is denied basic human rights, change is needed.
Recently, a friend attended a meeting of immigration advocates where he felt his level of commitment was being questioned and dismissed. Why was he not doing more? Why was he unwilling to risk?
I, too, sometimes feel inpatient that those around me are not doing more… Spending more time, contributing more money, taking action… I understand my own limitations, but why aren’t they more involved? From the outside, their lives look so spacious and comfortable. Without conscious thought, I begin to consider them “less than.”
The first advocacy needed is within my own mind. Just as I have limits to my time and energy, so do they. They may, as I have done, choose a few issues to champion and reluctantly let go of the rest. (With 7 ½ billion of us on earth, we don’t all have to do everything.) I want to respect their choices about what’s right for them.
It might help us to understand advocacy as a continuum of involvement and risk.
- educate/research – a good starting place is to learn about an issue. That might involve educating myself by reading, listening or watching media, talking with others or even conducting research. The goal is to understand the issues more deeply, so this is an unending task.
- take a position – at some point in my education, I will develop an opinion about the change I would like to see.
- articulate your position – the more I can put my opinion into words (and the more powerfully I can explain it), the more effective an advocate I can be.
- tell your friends – talking about what I’m learning and how my position is developing is advocacy.
- Contact or create media – writing or creating and posting other media moves my opinions outward.
- Contact influencers/policymakers (lobby) – once I know what I want to occur, I can ask those who have influence to make changes.
- join (or create) advocacy groups – connecting with others feel the way I do or who also are educating themselves and policymakers about an issue amplifies my advocacy.
- attend protests/rallies – moving our opinions into the public square broadens our reach.
- Participate in civil disobedience – if the injustice is systemic, refusing to comply with certain laws adds power and risk to my position.
When we are gathering together to create change and address injustice, we will be most effective if we respect each other’s positions on the continuum of advocacy.
I’m thinking out loud here. Does this ring true? What have I missed?