Effective Advocacy: Stay Informed
“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” ~ Kofi Annan
To be effective advocates for our areas of concern, we need to be knowledgeable and informed.
Staying informed doesn’t just mean that we learn the basics and keep up with the news about an issue.
Here are important practices for staying informed:
1. Focus on continuous learning and reflection.
It’s important to regularly review relevant resources. There are numerous options, from books, articles, and lectures, to films, podcasts, and online learning opportunities, to art and other special media. Not only is it important to pay attention to information surrounding your issue, but it’s also essential to review new trends and research about effective advocacy and best practices.
You’ll also want to consider what gaps there are in information about your issue and how you can fill those gaps. Keep a list of questions and answers to help you.
Keeping up with changes in policy and legislation, as well as with who the most relevant decision makers, power holders, and influencers are, is also necessary for success. In our dynamic world things change quickly, and it’s important to be ready to adapt and anticipate.
You’ll also want to research what advocacy strategies, tactics, and other efforts related to your issue have and haven’t been successful in the past so that you know where to focus your efforts and what to avoid.
Also take time to reflect on and think critically about what you’re learning, how it influences your own worldview, and how it’s relevant to your systems change advocacy. Taking in enormous amounts of information isn’t enough; we need to consider how it impacts us and others and what best to do with it.
2. Use a variety of credible sources.
Information changes, and not every author or piece of information is credible and reliable, so it’s important to find credible information that can be verified by multiple sources.
Use a tool such as the CRAAP Test (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose) to help you evaluate resources.
Here’s a chart you can use, adapted from a CRAAP test from CSU, Chico.
|Currency: The timeliness of the information||Currency:|
|When was the information published or posted?|
|Has the information been revised or updated?|
|Is the information sufficiently current for your purposes?|
|Are the links functional?|
|Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs||Relevance:|
|Is the information relevant to your issue or does it answer a question you have?|
|Who is the intended audience?|
|Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining that this is a good one to use?|
|Authority: The source of the information||Authority:|
|Who is the author/publisher/creator/source of the information and what are their affiliations?|
|What are the author’s credentials and qualifications for writing or presenting on this topic?|
|Is there contact information, such as an email address?|
|Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source (e.g., .com, .edu, .gov)?|
|Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the information||Accuracy:|
|Where does the information come from?|
|Is the information supported by credible evidence?|
|Has the information been reviewed or refereed?|
|Can the information be verified by another credible source?|
|Are the language and framing credible, or are they misleading?|
|Are there spelling, grammar, or other errors?|
|Purpose: The reason the information exists||Purpose:|
|What is the purpose of the information (to teach, persuade, entertain, sell, etc.)?|
|Are the authors/sponsors transparent about their intentions and purpose?|
|Is the information fact, opinion, propaganda?|
|If the point of view is meant to be impartial and objective, is it?|
|What political, cultural, ideological, religious, institutional, or personal biases are present?|
3. Bring a critical thinking lens.
When reviewing news, information, and resources, it’s important to
- ask questions about what information is missing or how it might have been manipulated;
- consider who or what is affected but invisible or unrepresented;
- evaluate facts, data, images, and other elements to ensure that they are accurate (to avoid inaccurate and misleading information);
- consider the source, their biases and worldview, and how those have influenced the language and framing of the resource; and
- understand how our own biases and worldview influence how we perceive and interpret the information.
4. Seek out different perspectives.
Reflecting on an issue from a variety of viewpoints will help you achieve a deeper and broader understanding of the issue and gain insights into the underlying needs and interests of those with opposing views.
In seeking out different perspectives, also be sure to consider the needs and interests of nonhuman animals and of the rest of the natural world (as represented by those who might understand their perspectives and by your and others’ direct experience with those nonhuman stakeholders).
Keep in mind as you’re seeking out a variety of information sources that most sources will not have the comprehensive ethical lens of recognizing and advancing the rights and wellbeing of people, animals, and the planet so you’ll need to apply that lens when evaluating and synthesizing what you’re learning.