Advocacy means taking action to create change. Advocates organize themselves to take steps to tackle an issue. They help to give people ways to speak out about things that negatively affect them. Advocacy has been described as “speaking truth to power.” Advocacy involves promoting the interests or cause of someone or a group of people. An advocate is a person who argues for, recommends, or supports a cause or policy — it is about helping people find their voice.
There are three types of advocacy: self-advocacy, individual advocacy, and systems advocacy. The LGBT Chamber of Commerce – Illinois is involved in all areas of advocacy for LGBTQ+ businesses both small and large.
Self-advocacy refers to an individual’s ability to effectively communicate, convey, negotiate, or assert his or her interests, desires, needs, and rights (VanReusen et al., 1994). Self-advocacy means understanding your strengths and needs, identifying your personal goals, knowing your legal rights and responsibilities, and communicating these to others. Self-Advocacy is speaking up for oneself and business.
In individual advocacy, a person or group of people concentrate their efforts on just one or two individuals. According to the group Advocacy for Inclusion, “Advocacy is having someone to stand beside you if you think something is unfair or that someone is treating you badly and you would like to do something to change it.”
There are two common forms of individual advocacy – informal and formal advocacy. When people like parents, friends, family members, or agencies speak out and advocate for LGBTQ+ people this is termed “informal advocacy.” Formal advocacy more frequently involves organizations that pay their staff to advocate for someone or a group of individuals.
Systems advocacy is about changing policies, laws, or rules that impact how businesses may compete in a competitive market. These efforts can be targeted at a local, county, state, or federal agency or government. The focus can be changing laws, or simply written or unwritten policy.
What is targeted depends on the type of corrective actions needed and who has authority over the problem, law, or regulation. (Resource Center, 1998).
How Does Advocacy Work?
Advocacy includes many different types of activities. It can mean researching new solutions, creating coalitions of like-minded people, public campaigning to raise awareness, and much more. Advocacy aims to create change.
All aspects of advocacy are used to:
Build evidence on what needs to change and how that change can happen.
Raise attention to important issues and give a voice to those affected by them.
Influence those in power to provide leadership, take action, and invest resources.
Create a positive change towards greater social justice and equality.