The Way We Advocate

I am helping to write a revised edition of a policy textbook and, as part of the instructors’ materials that will accompany it, the primary author wanted me to highlight some advocacy campaigns that are effectively using social media.

And, the thing is, I was kind of stumped.

Not because I couldn’t think of any good examples, but because, today, I don’t really see very many advocacy campaigns that aren’t integrating online and, in particular, social components into their work.

Even in the time since I started this blog, four years ago, social media’s role in advocacy has changed dramatically. For most of the organizations with which I work, it’s no longer a question of ‘experimenting’ with online outreach or perfunctorily adding a Twitter account.

Most often, the social media that is such a part of how we inform and engage today is woven into every aspect of our advocacy, too.

Social media and online activity have changed nonprofit advocacy so thoroughly that it’s difficult to even disaggregate the two, really.

There are instances where the social advocacy comes first, then the nonprofit (Moms Demand Action).

There are nonprofits whose advocacy happens almost entirely online, especially in the international arena.

There are advocacy efforts with outsized impact, because they are so good at making their power echo online, and others that have somewhat fallen from relevance, because they haven’t figured out how to leverage their assets in the online realm.

It’s how we advocate.

It’s who we are.

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3 responses to “The Way We Advocate

  1. Melinda,
    This is so true! It’s hard to imagine advocacy without social, but unfortunately it still happens. I see it more in associations lobbying for policy change who are still thinking “old school” in terms of visiting congressional staff, or asking people to make calls. Another big difference I see is in the shift from organizations controlling advocacy, to advocates in control: we have only to think Care2, change.org, Avaaz, and know that advocacy has moved from organized groups to self-organized groups or highly motivated and socially connected individuals. This might be something to mention in the textbook. Thanks for the great examples embedded within the blog post, too; I always enjoy learning from you.

    • That issue of shifting ‘ownership’ is so important. We have to get comfortable with relinquishing the appearance of control. We can work hard to turn people out for our actions on our causes, or we can let them develop campaigns that feed their need to be part of change!

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