The Process of Advocacy
Non-profits, advocacy coalitions, foundations: How to NOT change the status quo
The Process of Advocacy
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---Canto LXXXI, Ezra Pound
Flawed Processes, Watered Down Advocacy, Persistent Problems
Right on, Ben!
Just because you were a soldier and you fought for a cause, without being able to define it, does not mean you are a just man. Just because you were paid to speak out on behalf of a cause and obeyed the letter of the law while ignoring justice at every turn you may not call yourself an advocate of integrity. If you come to the end of your life and find yourself without enemies, that does not make you beloved or effective, it simpy means you stood for convenience over justice.
Conventional wisdom of the day dictates that the best way to reach an identified "goal" or objective within a given policy or legislative framework is to form an Advocacy Coalition. Such a coalition, following said standard practice, necessitates the gathering of a broad slate of "stakeholders" drawn from both within the issue itself (those experiencing a given problem or problems), as well as, those to found around the periphery of the issue area proper. Having formed such a Coalition (and I formed many over the years, across a wide range of issues), a gathering or convocation of identified "stakeholders" must be called. Of course this process is, first and foremost, contingent upon the presence of funding....for we have forgotten that for most of the history of the United States advocacy effort after advocacy effort formed and proceeded on very little or nothing. Once a convocation of the identified Advocacy Coalition has been called into being the next step is to identify a set of goals or aims for which the group will advocate.
Having identified a legislative or policy set of objectives or goals the group is summoned to participate in a discussion group or meeting--and it must be remembered here that no such aggrupation will ever come together with "major stakeholders" in the absence of funding. And for such funding to be made available most grassroots efforts will almost certainly already be compromised. Said compromise will, of course, be made in the name of 'incremental change", political expediency, "strategic thinking" or "objective-oriented planning". Now it would be patently idiotic to assert that social justice advocacy should be bereft of strategy, that it should be blind to poltiical realities, that there is no need to consider consensus-building. But the language utilized within today's advocacy continuum is not the language of social justice, it is not an impassioned language, charged with vitriol and seeking not compromise but the justice of an ultimate and defined victory. It is a language proscribed (and sanctioned) by those quite comfortable with keeping things just as they are.
Still, the rhetoric is enticing, the ostensible end-game seductive. So enticing, so seductive that, even for those of us who have worked within the broad advocacy and foundation infrastructure--forever allied with parallel Federal and State Agencies--that one fails to notice a few very salient facts with regard to what is going on "out there": thirty years and trillions of dollars pumped into the work around homelessness and there are more homeless and marginally housed now thna ever, a plethora of agencies working on justice reform and nary a dent made, the utterly futile "War on Drugs" and the continuing and unabated availability of controlled substances, the struggles of those suffering from mental health disorders and the prevailing ignorance of the majority of the American public (and professional sectors), the pernioious and yet pervasive stink of racial inequity, the wide range of problems suffered by veterans. The aim of extant mainstream advocay efforts is not to eradicate these problems, it is to perpetuate them. The absence of those with personal experience from the upper echelons of the decision-making processes, at all levels of government and within the private sector advocacy infrastrutcute does one thing: ensure that effort after effort will proceed with a dispassionate and measured focus on "effectiveness" and "incrementalism" all the while losing sight of the fact that not much of anything has been "fixed" at all. We have removed the element of personal experience from the advocacy continuum and thereby ensured a continual stream of the disaffected who may be researched and represented, but never really "helped". We control issues instead of fighting for the eradication of abiding social problems. We do that for one underlying reason: no money in it if we do otherwise, period.
The Reverand Martin Luther King, Jr.
A prior experimental evaluation of a community-based advocacy program for women with abusive partners demonstrated positive change in the lives of women even 2 years postintervention (C. M. Sullivan & D. I. Bybee, 1999). The current study explored the complex mediational process through which this change occurred, using longitudinal structural equation modeling and formal tests of mediation. As hypothesized, the advocacy intervention first resulted in women successfully obtaining desired community resources and increasing their social support, which enhanced their overall quality of life. This improvement in well-being appeared to serve as a protective factor from subsequent abuse, as women who received the intervention were significantly less likely to be abused at 2-year follow-up compared with women in the control condition. Increased quality of life completely mediated the impact of the advocacy intervention on later reabuse. Discussion places advocacy for women in the context of other efforts that are needed to build an effective community response to preventing intimate violence against women.
This article reviews the current state of public policy theory to find out if researchers are ready to readdress the research agenda set by the classic works of Baumgartner and Jones (1993), Kingdon (1984) and Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith (1993). After reviewing the influences of institutional, rational choice, network, socio-economic and ideational approaches, the article pays tribute to the policy streams, punctuated equilibrium and policy advocacy coalition frameworks whilst also suggesting that future theory and research could identify more precisely the causal mechanisms driving policy change. The article argues that evolutionary theory may usefully uncover the micro-level processes at work, particularly as some the three frameworks refer to dymamic models and methods. After reviewing some evolutionary game theory and the study of memes, the article suggests that the benefits of evolutionary theory in extending policy theories need to be balanced by its limitations.
Minkoff, Debra, From Service Provision to Institutional Advocacy: The Shifting Legitimacy of Organizational Forms, Yale University, the University of North Carolina Press, Social Forces, June 1994, 72(4) 943-969.
Nonprofit organizations are often a tool by which citizens can engage in the policy process. Many nonprofit organizations engage in issue advocacy. For some nonprofit organizations issue advocacy is the purpose for their existence. For others, issue advocacy is a means of meeting organizational goals. Many nonprofits avoid issue advocacy altogether. The IRS places a financial limit on how much issue advocacy a nonprofit organization may engage in. However, most nonprofits won’t ever come close to this limit. Most simply don’t have as great a need for advocacy, while some will self regulate to avoid losing funding sources. Some literature suggests that there is a negative relationship between some funding sources and the level of advocacy a nonprofit is willing to engage in. Literature from the field is researched to present a study of nonprofit advocacy, their structures and methods, and the political and financial environment within which they operate. Using data from IRS Form 990 this study then analyzes the relationship between lobbying expenses and funding sources. The funding sources studied are direct public support, indirect public support, government grants, program service revenue, and membership fees and assessments. The study finds a statistically significant positive relationship between several sources of funding (direct public support, indirect public support, and program service revenue) and the level of lobbying expenses reported. The study does not find any statistically significant negative impact of funding source on advocacy activity. Further conclusions are problematic, however, due to limitations in the research design. To truly focus on how nonprofits engage citizens in the policy process through advocacy activities and how they self regulate to protect funding sources will require further research with more and richer data. A recommendation for further studies is made in the conclusion of this paper.
Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States
In a time of policy devolution, social workers have a unique opportunity to develop a significant voice in constructing state social welfare policy. This article examines a method of collaborative policy advocacy led by social work researchers, practitioners, advocates, and students. It is illustrated with a five-year project to reduce wealth inequality through community economic development. Researchers brought expertise in ideas and analysis to real world applications. Social work practitioners brought essential “on the ground” expertise. Students brought much-needed assistance and a fresh perspective to the social policy process. Advocates, working in social welfare advocacy organizations, bridged these perspectives and provided experience in policy advocacy. Working with coalition partners, social workers successfully placed asset-based community economic development strategies on the state agenda and were instrumental in passage of innovative legislation. The article demonstrates that the policy-making process is open to influence by social workers, especially if they come prepared with innovative and promising ideas about long-standing social issues. Social workers can and should take the lead and become significant actors in state policy development.
Snowdon, Ashley, Evaluating Philanthropic Support of Public Policy Advocacy: A Resource for Funders, Goldman School of Public Policy University of California Berkeley, ©2004 Northern California Grantmakers, May 2004
Urban Institute, National Study of Nonprofit-Government Contracting State Profiles, (Elizabeth T. Boris, Erwin de Leon, Katie L. Roeger, and Milena Nikolova), Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, 2009
Governments contract with human service nonprofit organizations to deliver pivotal services to individuals, families, and communities. The U.S. economic recession has depleted many nonprofit budgets while increasing the demand for their services. Many state governments—which are large providers of government contracts and grants—are in a fiscal crisis.1 As a result, many nonprofits were forced to freeze or reduce salaries, draw on reserves, or scale back their operations. Each state is faced with unique financial challenges and employs different policies and procedures which are affecting the nonprofit-government contracting relationships in various ways. This report provides state by state data on government contracts and grants with human service nonprofits, problems encountered, and the effect of the recession.
Urban Institute, Contracts and Grants between Human Service Nonprofits and Governments, (Elizabeth T. Boris, Erwin de Leon, Katie L. Roeger, and Milena Nikolova). Center on Non-profits and Philanthropy, Brief 25, Oct., 2010
Governments contract with human service nonprofit organizations to deliver pivotal services to individuals and communities, such as food assistance, housing, employment training, youth mentoring, child care, and many more. While these organizations derive their revenues from a mix of funding sources, many rely heavily on government grants and contracts. Despite the prevalence and importance of government contracting, there is little information on its scope and effectiveness. Recent anecdotal press reports, regional studies, and small surveys, however, portray a variety of problems related to government contracting, especially in the context of the current recession (Bureau of Contracts 2010; Deffley and Pratt 2009; DiNapoli 2010).
The Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution
As watchdog for the philanthropic sector, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) has a special role in promoting, critiquing and building a progressive philanthropic movement by helping foundations to more effectively serve populations that are the least well off politically, economically and socially. While many who work for foundations recognize that their grant-making has an impact on disadvantaged nonprofits and constituents, it is difficult to determine whether their grants effect lasting change. Does philanthropic support help move society toward economic, political and social Fairness? Does making society fairer improve the condition of those who are worse off or does it exacerbate existing problems? Does grant-making promote greater access in the economic, social and political arenas for people who are excluded?