What is Advocacy?
The act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy; active support.
This is all well and good, but doesn’t really tell me anything more than I assumed in my first post on Advocacy.
One key point to note, however, is that advocacy is an ‘act’, it is ‘active support’. As Advocacy Officer of the Warwick University GNU/Linux User Group, I can’t just sit around shouting at people about the WUGLUG, GNU/Linux and Free Software, I need to get off my arse and do something to demonstrate to them why I believe that these three topics are worth my time and, hence, theirs.In the hopes of finding a fuller definition of Advocacy, I turned to Wikipedia, which, having redirected me to an article about political advocacy, tells me that
Advocacy is an umbrella term for organized activism related to a particular set of issues. Advocacy is expected to be non-deceptive and in good faith, though it is sometimes tainted by use of propaganda. It is almost always organized into or by an advocacy group or special interests.
This is a much meatier definition, so I will address the various issues brought up here in greater detail.
Advocacy is an umbrella term for organized activism related to a particular set of issues.
I don’t intend to talk about the particular set of issues to which the WUGLUG’s advocacy is related in this blog post, as it deserves a fuller investigation.What I do want to focus on is the fact that advocacy is ‘organised activism’. According to one definition on Dictionary.com, activism is
a policy of taking direct and militant action to achieve a political or social goal
However, before we start breaking out the AK-47s on Wednesday evenings, an understanding of what this definition means is required. Another definition on Dictionary.com is largely identical but replaces “direct and militant action” with “vigorous action or involvement”.
It, therefore, seem to me that Advocacy is, in part, the organisation of ‘vigourous action or involvement’ in issues that the WUGLUG is interested.
Advocacy is expected to be non-deceptive and in good faith, though it is sometimes tainted by use of propaganda.
This is an extremely important point and little explanation of the overall meaning should be needed.Propaganda, however, needs to be more carefully defined. My ever-present friend (ResNet permitting), Dictionary.com tells me that propaganda is
information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.
This definition suggests to me that the author of the Wikipedia article has misunderstood the nature of propaganda and is using it in a purely negative sense. I would argue that the WUGLUG should be deliberately spreading information and ideas (though probably not rumours) widely to help our group and/or the Free Software movement.
I would, in addition, argue that, to hark back to the Wikipedia definition, the aforementioned information and ideas should not be deceptive nor should they not be in good faith.
So, my role as WUGLUG Advocacy Officer also seems to involve the dissemination of non-deceptive information and ideas, in good faith.
It is almost always organized … by an advocacy group or special interests.
Despite some interesting grammar (removed from the above quotation), the Wikipedia article also states that Advocacy is almost always undertaken by an advocacy or special interest group.
Up to this point, I have been talking about how I, as Advocacy Officer, should be advocating the WUGLUG, GNU/Linux and Free Software. It seems to me, however, that the WUGLUG is defined as a special interest group within CompSoc, which fits the above definition of an advocacy-organising group.
As such, it’s important that I recognise my role as one of co-ordinator, not single-handed performer. The WUGLUG as a whole needs to be advocating the aforementioned issues and it is simply my job to facilitate this.
ConclusionTo pull together all the parts of this post, Advocacy, in this context at least, would appear to be
- the organisation of ‘vigourous action or involvement’ in issues that the WUGLUG is interested;
- the dissemination of non-deceptive information and ideas, in good faith
by the whole of the WUGLUG, not just their Advocacy Officer.