Change that leads to better lives

Introducing Advocacy Awareness Week 2019

Gail Petty, NDTi’s Advocacy Lead introduces Advocacy Awareness Week 2019

AAW19 logo for online sharing 1

Welcome to Advocacy Awareness Week 2019!!

It’s going to be an amazing week of celebrating all things advocacy! Last year you all exceeded our expectations in sharing your stories, videos, blogs and activities – truly seizing the opportunity to raise awareness about advocacy.

Many of you have already told us about what you have planned for #AAW19 and we can’t wait to see what you all get up to as well as reading and watching what you share.

Here at NDTi we’re thinking about the theme of IMPACT.

We spent some time discussing what we wanted our campaign theme to be this year. There’s so much going on that we could focus on:

  • The MCA Amendment Act and introduction of the Liberty Protection Safeguards
  • The Recommendations for advocacy that came out of the Mental Health Act Review
  • The fact that both Care Act Advocacy and Independent Professional Advocacy (advocacy under the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act) delivery and practice is still developing and many people aren’t yet accessing support they’re entitled to
  • The impact that current commissioning approaches have on us as a sector
  • The need for leadership and a voice for the advocacy sector

I could go on.

But, when we reflected, what we really wanted to explore in Advocacy Awareness Week is impact. Impact of and within advocacy. For me, there are a few elements to impact that I want to explore here; demonstrating the impact of advocacy, delivering impactful advocacy and the personal impact that advocacy can have.

Demonstrating our IMPACT

As a sector, we often talk about ‘people’ still not really understanding advocacy, whether that’s our colleagues in health and social care, the public, our commissioners or the people we work alongside. We find ourselves explaining our roles on a daily basis. How can this be after so many years of fantastic advocacy delivery? I think there are a few reasons:

  • We’re busy, heads down, delivering advocacy
  • Other people are busy, heads down doing what they do
  • The work advocates do is often quite hidden
  • We’re a relatively small sector
  • We don’t always have a shared sense of what impact we want to demonstrate
  • We don’t gather enough feedback from people who have accessed advocacy
  • We don’t always use the data we have about the impact of our advocacy delivery as effectively as we could
  • We are just not very good at demonstrating the impact we have. We’re not great at continuously sharing our stories; when was the last time you heard an amazing story about the power of advocacy in the news or even within Health and Social Care publications?

Delivering IMPACTFUL advocacy

Every day I hear about incredible, person led, empowering, impactful advocacy practice. I also hear about the frustrations and limitations that many providers, advocates and individuals experience:

  • Many providers are limited to delivering statutory advocacy. We know that there are many people who might traditionally have been able to access advocacy support, who want to access advocacy support and who now can’t.

  • The limitations to statutory roles can mean that there are issues that are important to people which we may not be able to address or offer support with.
  • Advocates are busy! Resources are often stretched and there are times when, rightly or wrongly, advocates need to work within imposed ‘time caps’.
  • Outreach, promotion and engagement activities are often limited due to stretched or limited resources.
  • We rightly focus on individuals and don’t always address collective or systemic issues.
  • Time for reflective practice, training and thinking about how we might maximise our impact is harder to come by, often as a consequence of tighter resources.

Understanding the Personal and Systemic IMPACT than advocacy can have

It is so important that we understand the impact that our advocacy delivery has for the individuals we work alongside; to help us reflect on the advocacy we provide, to help us make sure we are getting it right for people and to understand the impact that the advocacy input has had for someone. And yet, we often struggle with finding ways to ask people.

Getting meaningful feedback is fundamental to us understanding and demonstrating our impact.

At the same time, we also need to understand how our advocacy delivery can bring about systemic changes in services and communities; we need to be able to identify and address those collective issues which are affecting people.

Why does it matter?

It matters, because advocacy matters.

Advocacy is a vital, essential, fundamental component of our services and our society.

Taking action to help people say what they want, secure their rights, represent their interests and obtain the services they need, matters.

Promoting inclusion, equality and social justice, matters.

Perhaps now more than ever.

It also matters that we are accountable; to ourselves, to the people we support, to our funders and commissioners and our communities.

So, what should we do?

Here are a few thoughts about things we need to continue to do.

Some of you will already be doing some or all of these things (and more!). Some of you might have been doing so previously. Some of you might be thinking about it…

1) Tell our stories

Story telling is powerful and effective.It’s also something we need to think about, learn and do.Stories don’t just happen, we need to understand our message and what matters for our stories to be effective and to demonstrate our impact.

2) Enable the people who access advocacy to tell their stories

We need to make time to listen and to hear people’s own stories and find ways for them to be told. Make opportunities, get creative, explore different media, celebrate the possible, celebrate advocacy, celebrate the story.

3) Share our stories more widely

When that case study (story!) is written for reflective practice or to share with your commissioner, think about who else could hear it, how else can you share the impact you have had?

4) Understand your impact

We need to get so much better at understanding the impact we have.Collect data about your delivery, analyse it, understand it, use it to maximise your impact - for individuals, in health and social care systems and services, in your communities.Use your knowledge to create change.

5) Get feedback

Get feedback – lots of feedback!And don’t just wait until the end of someone’s advocacy journey or until someone makes a complaint.Find different ways of asking, at different times.Innovate, listen and learn.Make it easy for people to tell you.Keep it simple. What worked, what could be better?How could your advocacy have been more impactful?

6) Reflect on practice

Make time to reflect on your advocacy delivery.Plan it in, commit to it, do it and do it regularly.

Pick apart your advocacy delivery, understand your impact, understand where your advocacy could have been more rights focused, more empowering, more impactful, understand where you were effective, understand what could have enabled you to be even more effective.And then act on what you learn – book that training session, change the way that you challenge decisions, whatever it is, reflecting and learning about our delivery enables us to improve and have even greater impact

7) Plan your outreach and promotional activities

We must continue to get out into the world and let people know about our advocacy services.When I’m speaking to people who have accessed advocacy about what they think we should get better at, people invariably tell me, “more people should know about advocacy”.Advocacy can be and often is life changing, but only if you know to access it.

So, make your plans for who, where and how.Connect with teams, with organisations, with communities, go to events, to the community centre, the library, to the GP and the dentist, put your leaflets and posters and adverts up. Hold that pop up. Find time. Do it!

So, in Advocacy Awareness Week, share, share, share your impactful advocacy stories. Share them this week, and share them LOUDLY. Share them next week and the week after, and the week after that and share them LOUDLY.

Advocacy sector – make some noise, demonstrate your impact, maximise your impact and have a wonderful #AAW19!!!

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