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The New Advocacy: NGOs take note…
Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Public involvement has changed how advocacy works.

Today, civil society organizations – whether they are local nonprofits or national associations – are fostering social change through collaborative dialogue with their publics instead of “top-down” or expert-oriented campaigns.

By involving the public, who want to be engaged, these advocacy efforts are leading to more sustainable and innovative solutions to shared problems.

Old School!

Civil society organizations play a crucial role in democratic societies.  Working outside government, they provide service to those in need and help government implement the right policy approaches.

In the past, many of these organizations advocated for change in a more-or-less closed process.  Staff or insiders would decide what was wrong with government policy, design on what they thought was the “right” solution and engage in advocacy to persuade government decision-makers to adopt this approach.

In this old school model of advocacy, the broader public or community were bystanders, not proactively engaged in finding and implementing solutions.

The New Advocacy

More forward-thinking organizations in civil society, though, are using newer and more participatory forms of creating positive social change.  Instead of bypassing the public, they actively involve the broader community in thinking about problems and how to solve them.

We’re working with a nonprofit organization who have really embraced the new advocacy.  Their mission is to create a more sustainable food system and instead of just lobbying government with their own solutions, they are hosting a series of community-level dialogues across Canada to talk about food security and how it can be improved.

They’ve recognized that policy change happens when the change is chosen and championed by members of the public.  Only then will decision-makers, who are often “behind” public opinion, champion change themselves.

This is the “new” advocacy.

– Ellis Westwood –

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