Advocacy can include an array of activities, from protesting to letter writing campaigns. All in all, it means taking up an effort to promote your cause. In general, advocacy-or issue raising- is vital to policy formation: the squeaky wheel gets the oil!
Most policy is a result of bottom-up (e.g. grassroots) rather than top-down (e.g. federal mandates) solicitation.
For the purposes of this manual, advocacy is considered synonomous with activism. However, the connotation of “advocacy” is socially considered a more formal and communal effort than “activism”. This is a matter of social semantics—not true definition.
Grassroots Organizing Is A Form of Advocacy/Activism
Grassroots organizing as a phrase sounds small-scale, but it is how most social transformations and policies begin: a group of dedicated individuals that creates momentum/attention to a cause, usually within their own community. While grassroots organizing usually refers to local issues, they don’t always stay contained to local attention. Sometimes these issues and networks grow to expand across the nation, world, and even generations. The Civil Rights Movement is illustrative of this evolution.
Examples IRL (In Real Life)
- The Civil Rights Movement
- The political movement that took place in the 1950s-1960s to end institutional racism, segregation, and discrimination, such as enforced by Jim Crow laws, throughout the United States of America. Key figures include Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcom X, John Lewis, the Black Panthers, and the Lovings.
- Learn more at https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/civil-rights-movement
- Selma (2014), directed by A. DuVernay, takes a cinematic look into the time of the Civil Rights Movement.
- United Farm Works (UFW): “¡Si, Se Puede!”
- Begun in the early 1960s by Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Larry Itliong, and other organizers, the United Farm Workers of America is the nation’s first enduring and largest farm workers’ union. The union continues proactively championing legislative and regulatory reforms for farm workers covering issues such as overtime, heat safety, other worker protections, and pesticides. (UFW.org)
- Black Lives Matter
- A movement launched after the 2013 murder of Trayvon Martin aimed to eradicate white supremacy and police/vigilante violence against the Black community. The movement also demonstrated the organizing power of social media and a hashtag #blacklivesmatter.
- Learn more at blacklivesmatter.com
Grassroots Organizing in Action
Civil disobedience and non-violent direct action (NVDA) are key grassroots organizing tactics that were employed then AND now in times of protest and/or to push forth an agenda. Non-violent direct action encompasses many different tactics..
Civil Disobedience – The act of openly disobeying an unjust, immoral or unconstitutional law as a matter of conscience, and accepting the consequences, including submitting to imprisonment if necessary, to protest an injustice.
Non-Violent Direct Action – Nonviolent resistance to injustice. More than 250 forms of nonviolent direct action have been identified, including marches, boycotts, picketing, sit-ins and prayer vigils, to name a few.
See The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change for more definitions of nonviolent grassroots organizing tactics and terms: https://thekingcenter.org/about-tkc/glossary-of-nonviolence/ .