Whether you realize it or not, you’ve probably been advocating for things throughout your life. Did you ask your parents for a pet and give them reasons why you deserve one? Have you ever asked your boss for a raise and explained why you deserve it? What about raising concerns about your loved one’s healthcare with their provider? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are an advocate.
Advocacy is an activity by an individual or group that aims to influence decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions. Advocacy is presenting a problem or a need to elected officials, and it’s almost always accompanied by a solution.
“One thing my mom used to tell me growing up: don’t just come to me with a problem. Come to me with a solution as well,” says Phil Ford, manager of policy and advocacy. “It’s important for legislators to be made aware of the problem but it’s even more important to let them know that you want to work with them to find an appropriate solution.”
Advocacy is, perhaps, the most effective way to make change happen on any level of government because the issues directly impact the day to day lives of every citizen in a town or county – not to mention the state.
Communicating with your elected officials is important. They often only hear from constituents when they need something. It’s just as important to thank them for a vote on a bill or resolution, or for standing with you on the issues.
“Don’t be afraid to contact your decision-makers. They often hear from constituents only when something is needed, but they’re not recognized when they do the “right” thing. So, when you notice a decision-maker who’s done the “right” thing, thank them and let them know,” says Ford.
Everyone can advocate. Whether it’s asking your own legislator for support or only distributing facts to elected officials, every individual has the right to advocate. Use our Steps to Effective Advocacy handout to guide you through your next advocacy campaign. For a further explanation of advocacy, download our What is Advocacy handout.