What is Advocacy?

There are many definitions of advocacy, and many kinds of advocacy groups.

According to World Vision Canada, advocacy is taking action by speaking out against injustice and the abuse of rights, with and on behalf of the poor and the oppressed. It aims to influence decision makers and to challenge policies that cause inequality and suffering.

The Ontario Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth goes on to say, “An advocacy initiative targets, provokes, and influences change. An advocate may create a climate for change and bring decision makers to a position of having to act. But it is conflictual for that advocate to then participate in or direct the change process. Change in policy or practice must be developed by those responsible for its implementation, such as governments or service providers.”

The Schizophrenia Society of Canada says, “Advocacy is defined as verbal support or argument for a cause or policy. Simply put, it is telling your story to a decision-maker, through various means, in order to compel that person to do something. Most commonly, advocacy is directed towards government and decision makers. In the area of mental health, individuals and organizations advocate for a wide variety of reasons, including improved access to services and improved benefits and supports… A successful advocacy effort can take some time to produce results. But each time you speak on behalf of your chosen issue, you raise awareness and build support.”

New Youth provides a good definition of what advocacy groups are and what they do:

An advocacy group supports a political or social cause. They may recommend certain changes in government, public policy, society and/or law. An advocacy group comes together around a common issue, like rights for immigrants and refugees, the environment, education, health care, or women’s rights.

Advocacy groups create change by influencing government or society to act. Advocacy groups may use the following methods to do this:

  • Public education, like information pamphlets or websites, workshops and seminars.
  • Lobbying, which means to try and influence government. Groups can lobby through letter-writing, campaigns, direct talks with decision makers and politicians, and petitions.
  • Media activity, including news conferences, interviews and publishing articles.
  • Coalition building that happens when many groups or organizations come together for a common cause.
  • Grassroots activities, where a large number of community members can participate, such as protests, rallies and demonstrations.

The mission of the Canadian Cancer Survivor Network is to empower collaborative action by cancer patients, families and communities to identify and work to remove barriers to optimal care. We also want to ensure that cancer patients and survivors have access to education and action opportunities to have their voices heard in planning and implementing an optimal health care system, to educate the public and policy makers about the financial, emotional and health costs of cancer and offer considered, positive ideas and to alleviate their effects. Finally, we are researching and encouraging research focusing on ways to alleviate barriers to optimal patient care and follow-up.