Change that leads to better lives

Culturally sensitive and culturally appropriate advocacy – the power of partnerships

Judith Davey, the CEO of The Advocacy Project, discusses how they approach advocacy in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner and how they are strengthening their partnerships with the different communities they support.

Judith TAP photo 2 692 346

Although we always strive to do better, The Advocacy Project is proud of our diversity – diversity in governance, diversity of staff, and things like our “cultural awareness toolkit” to help inform our advocacy practice. We publish stats on the gender and ethnicity of managers and trustees. There’s much more that we need to do, but we’re brave enough to publish the data. Uncomfortable as it can be, we are transparent about where we are on the journey, and we’re accountable for our progress.

With this focus on equality, diversity and inclusion, we know that there’s always more to do, more to learn, and better ways with connecting with people from the different and vibrant cultures of the areas in which we work. We recognise and celebrate the role of communities and community-based organisations. We partner with communities and organisations to ensure the barriers to advocacy are minimised, and people can access advocacy in a timely manner that maximises impact. Fine words, but what does this mean in practice?

We recognise that partnerships help us ensure that our work is spot on in terms of cultural fit, so that our services can be accessed by all. Of course we have valuable partnerships with the local CVS, Healthwatch and other organisations, but I’m talking about partnership with organisations that support Hassidic Jews in North London, Bengali women in Brent, and the Turkish Cypriot communities in East London. Genuine partnership takes time and requires commitment. Genuine partnership is much more than a tokenistic translation of all our materials into different languages or to easy read. It takes time, effort and resources but is “worth its weight in gold” as it really deepens our impact. So for example, if someone contacts us but they’re not eligible for the services that we provide, with the person’s consent we contact the agency that can help to give all their details and arrange an appointment for them. This approach stops people “falling down the cracks”. It was really helpful for people during the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Hackney, there is some really interesting partnership working which has featured in a number of recent academic and Local Government Association (LGA) studies on impact and safeguarding. As the lead provider, we have formal partnership arrangements in place with six or seven community-based organisations that serve particular groups of people. One of the criteria for selecting new partners is where access to advocacy is under-represented for that community. Together we can explore the blocks and barriers to access. An explicit part of the partnership agreement is capacity building – we help the organisations to improve their non-statutory delivery and then actively help them to transition to delivering statutory advocacy. Not only does this help ensure that those that might otherwise be prevented from accessing advocacy due to factors like cultural norms, but it means that the local organisations have a broader range of skills and this of course helps their financial sustainability. Of course there are things that we can all improve and do better, but this is an awesome model and we’re pleased to be playing our part.

These are tough times for the advocacy sector and the people that we work with. But let’s keep focused on the #PowerofPartnership. Stand with the advocacy sector and the people that we work with…

Judith Davey

Chief Executive of The Advocacy Project

Proud mum, feminist, and curious person who loves to know about the world (hence the certificates in “odd” subjects like canine psychology and genetics). Passionate about equality and social justice, and has volunteered in charity since age of 14. Loves to dance Argentinian Tango

Judith is the CEO of The Advocacy Project, an organisation that helps vulnerable people secure their rights and make meaningful choices about what happens in their lives. It’s a user led organisation that puts the voice of people with lived experience at the heart of everything they do. The Advocacy Project works for organisations including Great Ormond Street Hospital, NHS England, Broadmoor Hospital and many London boroughs.

Judith has worked in senior roles in the private, public and voluntary sectors including Vice President Customer Services at Nortel, European Director at Deloitte, and Deputy CEO at ActionAid. She has a social sciences degree and a MSc in Information Technology. She studied governance and leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School

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