Advocacy as a Tool for Change

Advocacy as a Tool for Change

I recently gave a talk for the Monash Rural School of Health on Advocacy as a Tool for Change as part of International Women's Day celebrations. Here's what I said:

There are many ways we can make change happen. One critical way is advocacy. "An advocate is someone who represents and works with a person or group who needs support and encouragement to exercise their rights." (Definition from Aged Rights)

I am passionate about advocacy in community.  My first advocacy role was as President of the Bendigo Sustainability Group from 2008 to 2010, with 500 members and many more supporters. At the time we were the "go-to" organisation on issues such as climate change. I was often on the radio speaking up for better policy, educating people on the issue and what we could do about it. We ran events, activities and practical projects. We wrote numerous letters and submissions to local, state federal governments to advocate for the changes we saw were needed.

We had conversations in the street, for the 100% Renewables Campaign, with people about renewable energy. It started with a small group of us, including Ann. (Ann is on the left in the photo at the top of this blog.)

Ann was a volunteer who wanted to do something, but didn't know what to do and was frustrated. She didn't want to be a leader, she just wanted to get in and help. We went door knocking and started with70 people to signing the survey.

I mentored and encouraged Ann. We had fun and formed a friendship. She ended up coordinating 20 volunteers over a weekend and we engaged with 700 people. This then combined with communities all over Australia and 14,000 conversations were held nationally.

There is a huge need for all of us to take on advocating for change. There are many issues and many challenges - health and well-being, social justice, standing up for the marginalised, and environment.

There are many scales we can operate in too, from our own workplace or family, our own neighbourhood, town, country and globally. No matter how big or small the advocacy work we take on, it all makes a difference. It's actually just about speaking up when you see something you think is unjust.

So the question is who would YOU like to advocate for and what would YOU like to do about it?

This is a big question for many, but it's really about thinking what area you are passionate about and what is it that you see that you think should change. You may already have this worked out.

Whatever advocacy you take on, keep in mind that it's not actually what you do when advocating for change that's the most important, it's who you are and who you choose to be. Example you may choose to be an "inspiring leader" or a "make it happen person". Whatever you choose, step into this way of being right from the start and the rest will follow.

Van Jones talks about advocacy as standing for something in an authentic way:

I don’t think an authentic stand comes from your head. I think an authentic stand comes from your heart. If your child is sick, right? Something happens in you to make a miracle, to make a miracle. It has nothing to do with the facts. And that’s all that’s required is your child my child your grandchild, your child’s child’s child – they’re in peril. And if you start thinking about it, you’ll sit down. But if you feel it you’ll stand up!

That’s the amazing thing about this thing. It’s that it’s when you stand up you license other people to stand up. Now you standing up by yourself don’t make a dad-gum bit of difference in the rational world. You’re just one fool standing up. But if you’ve ever seen a standing ovation? It starts with one fool standing up. And then pretty soon the whole stadium is standing up. And it’s a different moment!”

Van Jones

 
Now with Make a Change, one of the roles I have taken on is to advocate for changemakers. People that put their heart and soul into making a difference for others. I advocate for funding to provide training for changemakers and I organise events to provide changemakers with support, inspiration to keep going and opportunities to make new connections. A key area I am advocating for at the moment is advocating to governments and businesses and people in the community about the "value" that changemakers provide and how that should be recognised and invested into

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Description: 
Ann from the Bendigo Sustainability Group
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