Advocacy is something a lot of people have opinions on. Opinions on how to do it well, how to do it “right,” or what even counts as advocacy. Yes, there is such thing as bad advocacy if what you’re doing isn’t taking into account the very people you’re trying to help. If you assume you know what’s best for someone based on your own lifestyle or life experiences, you’re probably going to miss the mark.
So first, let’s just get it straight that if you’re going to try and work with those in need or try and help them be heard: make sure it’s their voices being heard. Don’t let your face become their voice or have some watered down voice because others are hearing their stories secondhand through your voice. Let them tell their stories. Ask them what they want you to do. Sometimes, it’s as simple as telling their stories.
Moving on. So once we establish that we’re going to try our hardest to work with the group we want to help rather than just “advocate for” (I just really hate saying advocate for, so I’m changing ‘for’ to ‘with’ from now on). How do we know what we’re doing is good enough?
Well, if you’re doing anything to get the word out, you’re advocating. If that means stickers, letter writing, sharing articles online, hosting events, or even lobbying: that’s advocacy. Fundraising is also advocacy. People have this weird feeling when donating to various causes. They want to know where the money is going exactly; that’s a good thing. However, people think if their money isn’t directly going to the hands of child soldiers, human trafficking victims, etc. they believe the nonprofit is lying. What we need to understand is raising awareness is an integral to advocacy. When you see that your money is going to ‘marketing,’ it’s going to advocacy campaigns, like social media campaigns, different awareness events, creating new content, etc. These things are needed and help the overall advocacy of a certain topic move forward.
Buying a sticker in support for a cause makes some people call you a slacktivist, which I mean, maybe you are. However, if you put that sticker on your water bottle or laptop, someone else is going to see it. A lot of people are going to see it. If one person sees that sticker, becomes interested in the cause as well, and maybe has connections or a career that could influence powerful leaders or policy, big things can happen.
We also have to remember, these are nonprofit organizations. They aren’t equipped with the skills to capture war criminals, pimps, genocidaires (one who commits genocide), or take down corrupt governments. They need partners and help to do those things and that’s why “marketing” or awareness campaigns are needed.
So before you write everyone who shares an article, uses a hashtag, or buys a sticker off as slactivists, think about the advocacy they could be starting without even knowing it.