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What Makes Advocacy Effective?

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What Makes Advocacy Effective?

At Phoenix Zones Initiative, we define effective advocacy this way:

Effective advocacy addresses the deep roots of social and environmental injustice in ways that transform our systems and institutions so that everyone can rise and thrive.

People who engage in effective advocacy exemplify numerous characteristics, including that they are

  • empathetic and compassionate: they care about the rights, health, and wellbeing of people, animals, and the planet and strive to understand and respect the needs, interests, and perspectives of others.
  • ethical: they strive to act at all times with humility, moral courage, and integrity, and through principles that advance respect for liberty and sovereignty, compassion, and justice for all beings.
  • upstanding: they proactively speak out and take action when witnessing attitudes and/or behaviors that harm others.
  • credible: they aim to ensure that their work and all information used and shared is as accurate and credible as possible.
  • literate: they cultivate inclusive cultural literacy and literacy about nonhuman animals, practice compassionate curiosity about others, and strive to overcome harmful biases.
  • systems-change focused: they target their efforts on influencing worldviews, tenets, and norms, and on transforming systems via policy and outreach.
  • systems thinking-focused: they use systems-thinking tools and skills to help them understand an issue and the best means for achieving a successful resolution that doesn’t trigger negative unintended consequences.
  • informed: they are as knowledgeable and informed as possible about all facets of the issue, the stakeholders, the influencers, the power dynamics, and the strategies and skills needed to succeed, and they adopt a practice of continuous learning.
  • skilled: they have cultivated the skills necessary to understand the problem, implement the plan, engage with key actors, reach the goal, and communicate effectively.
  • realistic: they have developed goals and plans that are realistic given the situation and the resources available.
  • clear: they have ensured that the goals, outcomes, messaging, communications, and other elements are clear and understandable.
  • strategic: they act with intention and deliberation and have developed a specific set of relevant and effective strategies for manifesting their work.
  • opportunistic: they take advantage of events, resources, and other factors that can increase the chance for success.
  • persistent: they maintain persistence, understanding that achieving important goals takes time, patience, and tenacity.
  • customizers: they use unique and appropriate framing, language, and strategy customized to who is being targeted/influenced and to that individual’s or group’s worldview and interests, emphasizing empathy and authenticity.
  • inclusive: they strive to understand and address the perspectives, needs, and interests of all stakeholders (including nonhuman beings and detractors) and to build a strong and diverse coalition of allies and influencers.
  • creative: they use unique and relevant tactics, tools, and strategies for achieving their goals.
  • adaptable: they can skillfully shift gears according to feedback, the responses of others, the success or failure of strategies, and the reflection and evaluation of their efforts.
  • evidence-based: they use strategies, information, and other tools that are based on solid data, not on guesswork or assumptions.
  • resilient: they can adapt well in the face of adversity and sustain physical, mental, and emotional health and wellbeing, and the ability to thrive, and they can help others do the same.

Take note iconWhile all these characteristics are important, achieving these characteristics is a continuous process. Don’t wait until some imagined and impossible state of perfection to take action.

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