What Makes a Good Advocate?

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 3.12.47 PMAs I have researched the field of advocacy and what it means, I have come across a lot of information about what makes someone a good advocate. This idea of what a good advocate really means or how to be a successful advocate is difficult to just type into a search engine and expect a flat list of compiled results. This is in part because advocacy is such a broad topic and there are so many factors that contribute to good advocacy especially depending on topic of interest. So something I thought I would do is compile a list of what exactly it is about some of the best advocacy organizations that makes them so successful. Upon my research I have come across multiple different sources of information that list different ways to be the best possible advocate. Not only have these sites provided detailed information, but last week we were each instructed to read about a different Genocide related NGO and I used ideas from these websites to help compile a list.

Know your field of interest

Duh. While this seems overly simplified, I think this part of advocacy is arguably the most important. Knowing the ins and outs of what you are advocating for is incredibly valuable. Credibility is the most influential aspect of a public speaker. Having extensive knowledge about the past, present, and potential future of an existing problem only contributes to the credibility of the individual speaking and increases the chance of your influence on others. This helps you persuade others to become interested and more importantly become involved in the issue. One consistent trend that I noticed over the course of research, more specifically our Genocide research, is the extensive knowledge and awareness that these organizations and their leaders hold. Genocide Watch, Amnesty International, and CARE are just a few of the organizations that stand out to me in terms of extensive knowledge. The President of Genocide Watch, Dr. Greg Stanton has had hands on experience with the United Nations and drafting legal documents for multiple Genocide incidences. The website also provides copious amounts of information about what Genocide is and the different stages of Genocide. Amnesty International and CARE both provide facts about specific topics of relevance to their cause. So not only does this make their existence as an organization more persuasive but it also shows that these organizations know their facts.

Be aware of current events

Be current. With most advocacy issues, updates happen daily and for some issues they happen hourly. Typically in humanitarian relief and rescue issues and other types of persecution or immediate problems that have constant updates, it is essential to be aware of the changes. Being current to these issues increases your awareness not only as a general citizen, but it impacts how you will shape the way you advocate for an issue and the strength of influence that results from your advocacy. Most of the Genocide NGOs that I have researched have newsfeed updates on the home page from their active twitter and blog accounts. These show the moment-to-moment updates that these organizations keep on their home pages show their interest and investment in their cause. It also shows audience members that this is an issue of consistent importance and it needs constant reinforcement and attention to be effectively addressed.

Be creative

Creativity fuels the soul. Telling stories, not just the facts, and painting them in creatively persuasive ways will impact people much more than numbers. The Young Adult Library Services article on “10 Quick Tips for Advocacy” provides insight into this as they state, “the same old story gets tired and dusty” THIS IS SO TRUE. Have you ever heard a story told by the same person over and over? It becomes exhausting when you know the same end to the same story. Hearing new stories from different people about individualized experiences is one of the strongest tools in an advocate’s toolbox. Let those who have experienced the tragedy you are fighting against speak for themselves. Their journeys and perspectives can be life changing, as I’ve clearly experienced first hand from our trip to Phoenix. Instead of using a campaign with facts and numbers that people won’t remember, let them see the names and faces and hear the stories they won’t forget. One specific example of creativity at work is the Kony 2012 Campaign. Who would have thought that making the perpetrator famous would have such a substantial impact? That was a creative approach to story-telling in the field of advocacy. It was not only educational but drastically different than what most advocacy campaigns have been and it was very effective. It showed that using a different story-telling approach to a severe humanitarian issue could strongly influence the general public.

Immerse yourself

Become passionate and stand firm in your beliefs. It is important to find a balance between personal needs and advocating for an issue you love, I’ve already experienced this being back at school. As much as I want to say, “this test isn’t important compared to those who need help battling some of the greatest cruelties in this world,” I can’t just give up on my own studies for a cause. I mean, education is an important piece to advocacy too and I can’t just quit the track I’m on to become an advocate. However, in order to be effective you need to work hard to stay updated and find ways to integrate your passion for advocacy and the topic you are arguing for into your everyday life. Even just being current and knowledgeable can be used effectively to persuade others to become interested. Allowing yourself to become fully aware of your own self as an advocate and what you can do on a large scale is necessary in order for you to balance your own life and the stance you take in advocacy.

Repeat your Beat

Don’t let people forget the song you sing. Repeat your beliefs, and push to get those who may not of heard about your issue to listen. The Young Adult Library Services website stated that if you can get someone to say or think something at least 3 times, you will probably get them to remember it even if they don’t necessarily agree. Get that song stuck in their heads, and they won’t be able to forget the message.



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