The different dimensions of advocacy
Communication is an integral element of networking, yet facilitating a coordinated communications strategy for advocacy is a continued struggle. This is a key topic tackled during the Ecojesuit Meeting 2023 that discussed ways to strengthen the Ecojesuit network’s communication strategies with each Conference in amplifying local stories and realities for effective advocacy.
Dr. Chad Raphael, professor of the Department of Communication of Santa Clara University (SCU) and Co-Coordinator of SCU’s Environmental Justice and the Common Good Initiative, presented Communications and Networking for Advocacy and Climate Action to share perspectives and methods on communications and advocacy and how these are integral to local realities.
Dr. Raphael defined advocacy as an action that supports an idea or cause-based evidence. This is distinct from other social change strategies that the Social Change Wheel depicts. These strategies include volunteerism, community and economic development, community-based participatory research (CBPAR), community organizing, and socially responsible behavior, among others. At the core are advocacies such as anti-racism, equity, and Co-Creation that are supported by social change strategies.
Advocacy on the other hand involves changing the system or improving the system. This is what people tend to gravitate towards, such as policy reforms. Another dimension is to uplift the marginalized by developing their capacities to fight for their rights, obtaining services or resources to meet their needs, and building on their knowledge.
How then can we engage in advocacy versus other social change strategies? Dr. Raphael elaborated on story-based strategy as an approach in developing a communication strategy for advocacy campaigns through storytelling. The process is as follows:
- Break down the power by specifying goals, audiences, targets, and constituencies to ensure that the stories and strategies developed are grounded in daily realities of power around social issues.
- Break down the opposition’s story by understanding what needs to be changed.
- Put the audience in the front row by identifying groups that need to be reached the most. This needs to be specific.
- Craft the story to ensure that this meets the audience where they are. This should challenge the opposition’s story (not reinforce it), and reflects the future being envisioned.
- Choose where to intervene. This is the space or platform where action can be taken to interfere with the opposition’s story.
- Choose how to intervene. How can the message be translated into action?
- Review through F.R.A.M.E.S.: Frame the issue, reframe opposition’s story, accessible to the audience, memorable, emotional, and simple and short.
With this process, the meeting participants met as separate groups that combined those from the Global South and Global North and sketched a campaign through a story-based strategy. The exercise was helpful as each group understood the importance of first establishing a clear goal, the North Star, for a focused advocacy campaign. This also helped participants place themselves in the shoes of the opposition and the people that need to be engaged to make campaigns effective. Some limitations were also echoed in the story-based strategy, especially in terms of effectively engaging communities on the ground to speak out and tell their stories.
This is helpful for Ecojesuit as the network prepares for COP28 in Dubai, UAE. With all its limitations, the COP process is still a critical platform for a global faith-based lobby in uplifting the integrity of youth voices calling for change, and bringing forward concerns of climate vulnerable communities in the margins.
Ecojesuit is also focusing efforts to strengthen the social presence and voices in COP28 by giving more visibility to the actions that the Conferences are working with and sharing these stories more broadly, as well as the advocacies on climate justice, youth, and Care for the Common Home.