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Advocacy and Lobbying

Advocacy can be defined as the practical use of knowledge for purposes of social changes. These changes can be directed to government policies, laws, procedures, or sometimes to ourselves. Advocacy is therefore an act of supporting an issue and persuading the decision makers on how to act in order to support that issue. This definition tells, in fact, that advocacy is a process, not an one-way activity. By this definition it is clear that advocacy is an effective process aimed at achieving some specific results.

Advocacy is about motivating and mobilizing the community. It starts with a small group of people who share concerns about a specific problem and are willing to devote time, their expertise and resources available to reach the desired change.

Advocacy can help your organization achieve its political goals whatever they may be, including:

  • improving public services such as transportation, information, etc.
  • education
  • accessibility
  • development of community based services
  • public health
  • greater accountability of elected representatives of local and national authorities,
  • decentralization of government decision-making process and public services,
  • new laws that better protect the civil rights associations, including the legal recognition and other civil society organizations.

Advocacy means:

Drawing attention to an important issue and direct decision-makers to a solution.
Influencing the decision-making at all levels.
Mobilizing members of the community, to include the wider community.
Developing accountability and transparency of local governments and public services/institutions.


NOTE: Advocating produces results, whether you win, or lose. Wherever the change is needed, advocacy has it’s role!


Advocacy
can be divided in three types of activities, including:

  1. Representation: to speak on their own or in other’s name in public
  2. Mobilization: to encourage others to speak in public with you
  3. Empowerment: to let others know they have the right to speak in public and have the right to be heard.

Representation

Well-planned advocacy is especially important when users will not be able to represent themselves or when one person is in charge of representing the whole group of people. The person chosen to do so must be capable of properly expressing interests of those on whose behalf it advocates. In this regard it is important to ensure that the basic principles of advocacy (ethics and legitimacy) are satisfied.

When representing some group of people, it is important that users/beneficiaries are sharing information with advocates. Advocates are presenting the information received, and the advocates are contacting those persons who are in the focus of advocacy efforts. Motto of the worldwide movement of people with disabilities “Nothing about us without us” in this case must be fully implemented. The best person to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities is person with disabilities themselves.

Mobilization

Mobilization in fact means nothing more than the inclusion of others in your activities in a way that they are encouraged to support your struggle, and then take actions towards fulfillment of common goals. The mobilization is actually: expanding the base of support, extending from those which are directly affected by the problems to convincing others that this issue is important for them as well.

To mobilize others is important for several reasons:

  • The number of people who advocate is important, especially if all the people are advocating for a common thing
  • Work with others or other groups reduces the risk that the issue they advocate for is controversial.
  • You can achieve social change by raising public awareness which changes public opinion even if the same change does not occur within the government and state system.

In this process it is expected that users will share information with advocates. Advocates / will mobilize other people and / or support organizations. Advocates are ones who are mobilizing other individuals and/organizations to join the advocacy action. Motto of the worldwide movement of people with disabilities “Nothing about us without us” in this case would have to be fully implemented as wall, because the best person to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities is person with disabilities.

Empowerment

Representation and mobilization allow people to discover how they can be active as political figures. Advocacy helps people to find simple ways that can influence the policy and practice at the same time. Also, in the process advocates are collecting information on current positions of the government, local government and other stakeholders. This process is also very liberating because in some way it relies on personal energy and the strength of each person who is involved in the process. This particularly applies to members of groups that have traditionally been marginalized, in our case, people with disabilities. Another important result of this process is that by encouraging individuals to participate and play an important role in the development of policy and practice, allows for the sense of ownership over changes achieved. People who are encouraged through this process, experience radical change about their place in the community and recognize that they have rights that can be actively used. Finally, these processes encourage people to challenge the traditional roles of government and society, and to convince them that they have both responsibility and rights in the society. All three activities can take place at the same time, since in normal circumstances, these activities are often intertwined.

Advocacy is a process designed to affect social change. The process of change can sometimes be time consuming, requires sacrifices, patience, involvement, and often requires giving one hundred percent, teamwork both within your organization and team work with partner / coalition organizations, communication and openness. Advocacy consists of a series of activities undertaken with the aim of changing policies, practices and attitudes. People who are engaged in advocacy and seeking to influence the changes in society need to accept the risk that change they are advocating for can come much later, or even that nothing has changed.

Lobbying

Advocacy often involves specific lobbying of decision makers. Lobbying is a complex and sensitive task, one must approach very well prepared.

In Anglo-Saxon tradition, this word means the lobby of the House of Parliament. In that lobby, the ones who wanted some issue to be resolved in their favor, were waiting for members of Parliament and tried to make an impact on them (i.e. lobbying) to decide in favour of the issue they were interested in.

Therefore, lobbying is a term that includes activities of influencing the decision makers, both political and all other decisions for which the community or individuals are concerned about. Lobbying is a targeted activity and is mainly consisting of a direct influence on decision-making persons.

Local policies are strategic documents by which the community determines the direction and objectives for its work in an area of jurisdiction in determined time frame, i.e. Strategy for development of local communities or the strategy for social / health care, environmental protection, employment, …, etc. Based on those documents we are creating the local action plans to achieve the targeted changes.

The process of inclusion of disability issues into the local policy requires active advocacy and lobbying at all levels in all the steps, as shown in the diagram below:

The process of inclusion of disability issues into the local policy

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