Advocacy : 365 days a year
Paul Marshall, NDTi CEO, reflects on Advocacy Awareness Week 2019 and on the need for the Advocacy sector to come together and form a collective voice in order to effect change.
We can look back on another very successful Advocacy Awareness Week. It was encouraging to see so many people and organisations engaging and contributing to what became quite a social media trend. What is clear is that the profile of advocacy, those that access it and those who provide it was raised to an extent that possibly had not been before.
I think we have all been both touched and inspired by the personal stories that were shared and the positive impact on people’s lives that advocacy has. However, one week in 52 isn’t enough to show the importance of enabling people’s voices to be heard or reflect the impact of doing so fully. We need to move beyond only really managing to get that wider profile and awareness once a year - not because we don’t want to celebrate great things during #AAW, but because we want those that have the power to make change happen take note of advocacy and what it enables and achieves for people, every day.
The inescapable truth is that advocacy is a tough sector, impacted by the differing understanding of it and the manner in which contracts are awarded, where we can often have the lowest cost as a driver for commissioning. I, and I’m sure others, would argue that contracting in this way might deliver low cost, but it won’t drive consistently high, person led, quality advocacy. Equally we know that the advocacy sector is varied and diverse, ranging from large organisations through to often very local, niche, small ones. How do we get a better understanding of the value of each and the rich impact that such a diverse set of advocacy skills creates?
We of course need to also think of self-advocates in this context. People who are speaking up for themselves, know their rights and want to be heard and listened to. There are many individuals out there who create and drive change through their own voice, determination and resilience. How do we show how important this is as well? How do we get those decision makers and budget holders to understand the importance and impact of this.
Clearly there’s a need for advocacy in all its forms to have a higher profile, it’s not enough to shout about it once a year. There has to be a collective advocacy sector voice, one that reflects the diversity of it and one that can influence and change things. Challenging agencies to invest properly in advocacy, support and nurture it, give it the space, profile and time to demonstrate worth, but also to be able to influence further change and do what it does best everyday – enabling people to be heard.
Paul Marshall, Cheif Executive Officer, NDTi