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Types of Advocacy. John Lord May 31, 2004 Brock University. What is Advocacy?. Varying expectations of purpose & function “To plead the cause of another” - traditional definition, legalistic. What is Advocacy? (con’t). Definition must also include:

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Types of Advocacy

John Lord

May 31, 2004

Brock University


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What is Advocacy?

  • Varying expectations of purpose & function

  • “To plead the cause of another”

    - traditional definition, legalistic


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What is Advocacy? (con’t)

  • Definition must also include:

    - depth of feeling & commitment in advancing a cause

    - more than what is routinely done – “going beyond the call of duty”

  • Advocacy often stresses vision, voice, choice

    - “what vision” is often a key issue

    - “whose voice” is critical to identify


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Why Advocacy is Necessary?

  • Rights – concerned with law & social structures (e.g. ODA)

  • Participation – concerned with move to inclusion, citizenship, & involvement in recovery (e.g. Individualized funding)

  • Power – concerned with shifting power to families & individuals & distributing valued resources more equitably


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Pat Deegan, Mental Health Advocate

“It is not our job to pass judgement on who will and will not recover from mental illness and the spirit breaking effects of poverty, stigma, dehumanization, degradation and learned helplessness. Rather, our job is to participate in a conspiracy of hope…First, we must be committed to changing the environments that people are being asked to grow in. We must recognize that real change can be quite uncomfortable and sometimes I worry we will content ourselves with superficial change.”


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Dilemmas Advocates Must Face Consciously

Differentiating between ends and means

  • There is power in purpose and advocates need to remember why they are advocating

  • Easy to get lost in technical aspects of advocacy

  • Clear values makes it possible to compromise on means

  • In dual diagnosis, it takes time & dialogue to find common ground related to values and purpose


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Dilemmas Advocates Must Face Consciously (con’t)

Conflict of interest

  • Occurs when two interests collide – most powerful interest usually wins

  • Consumers and families not well served when service providers are also primary advocate


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Dilemmas Advocates Must Face Consciously (con’t)

Challenging authority

  • Reality that advocacy at some point involves challenging authority

  • Causes anxiety & leads to avoidance of conflict

  • Deference to authority quite common

  • Not all are suited to “step up” for cause


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The Potential of Advocacy to “Imagine” Better

Getting the analysis right

& asking the right questions

  • Grievances & criticisms tend to drive advocacy

  • Grievances cannot define vision – values are key

  • Key questions enable groups to focus advocacy on “right” understanding


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The Potential of Advocacy to “Imagine” Better (con’t)

Being educated about “better”

  • Both a personal & collective process – we imagine better possibilities & explore these possibilities with others

  • Imagining “better” is about dreaming & values


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The Potential of Advocacy to “Imagine” Better (con’t)

The complexity of “imagining”

in dual diagnosis

  • “where to begin?” is often a challenge –

    how to address & link two systems?

  • Success has occurred where champions of change understand the strengths & limitations of both systems, & the value of involving individuals & families

  • Complexity can be daunting for advocates


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Forms of AdvocacyTheir Strengths and Limitations

  • Self- Advocacy

  • Individual Advocacy

  • Agency Advocacy

  • Collective Systemic Advocacy


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Forms of AdvocacyTheir Strengths and Limitations

Self- Advocacy

  • Process whereby individuals advocate for own needs, interests or grievances

  • Strength lies in conviction of the person

  • Difficult for authorities to ignore personal pleas

  • Self-advocacy training creates awareness of oppression and rights

  • Limitation lies in its limited impact on social policy


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Forms of AdvocacyTheir Strengths and Limitations

Individual Advocacy

  • Process whereby professional or volunteer works 1:1 ‘with’ & ‘represents’ the interests of vulnerable person

  • Strength lies in its voluntary relationship, compassion, and commitment to the “other”

  • Advocate must truly listen & represent the person’s cause “as if it were one’s own”

  • Most effective when individual advocacy links to broader issues

  • Limitation is that few human service workers have the independence or courage to be advocates – Joyce’s story


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Forms of AdvocacyTheir Strengths and Limitations

Agency Advocacy

  • Agencies often “assume” they do advocacy

  • Strength lies in the resources available to mobilize action

  • Few success stories of agency advocacy

  • Successes involve agencies where some staff do not provide direct services

  • Its limitations are fourfold: bureaucracy, mandates, conflict of interest, professionalism

  • Professionalism - “clients” the least powerful group


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Forms of AdvocacyTheir Strengths and Limitations

Collective Systemic Advocacy

  • Involvement by a group to promote & defend the rights of those it represents

  • Strength lies in its collective, broad support

  • Many potential strategies: lobbying, legal action, litigation (e.g. two autism families)

  • Limitation related to difficulty of escalating carefully

  • Key is relationship building & appropriate strategies


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Limitations and Shortcomings of Advocacy

Advocates are imperfect and

mess it up as we all do

  • Tendency to be single issue focused: dual diagnosis issues get ignored

  • Failing to include the vulnerable person

  • Few advocates have knowledge of both systems

  • Few people in human services are really “strategic”


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Limitations and Shortcomings of Advocacy

Other strategies can be

just as powerful

  • Sometimes advocacy for system change not the right direction (e.g. Support Clusters)

  • Building community demonstration projects very powerful in creating learning impact


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Keeping Advocacy Grounded in Hopes and Possibilities

Need for vision and practical solutions

  • Advocacy cannot just be critical

  • Vision and values need to outline possibilities

  • Practical solutions help others see possibilities

  • Cross-system resource teams in British Columbia came out of this kind of advocacy


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Keeping Advocacy Grounded in Hopes and Possibilities

Social movements maintain

energy and commitment

  • Advocacy for inclusion, citizenship, & individualized support grounded in social movements

  • Important to connect with social movement groups (CMHA, Community Living Ontario, People First, Canadian Association for Independent Living Centres, Council of Canadians with Disabilities)


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Keeping Advocacy Grounded in Hopes and Possibilities

It is about NOT separating the

personal & the political

Advocacy is ultimately about what we stand for – our compassion, principles, & belief in the worth of every human being

“Self-help and social action cannot be arbitrarily separated. At some point helping ourselves includes joining together as a group to fight the injustices that devalue us and keep us in the position of second class citizen.” (Deegan)


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Keeping Advocacy Grounded in Hopes and Possibilities

Personal and political advocacy is about the little things and the big things

It is about inspiring ourselves and others with our hopes for a more humane world

It is about having the wisdom to know when to be quiet, when to make noise, and how to build relationships for change


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