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Advocacy is an activity by an individual or group that aims to influence decisions within political, economic, and social institutions. Advocacy includes activities and publications to influence public policy, laws and budgets by using facts, their relationships, the media, and messaging to educate government officials and the public. Advocacy can include many activities that a person or organization undertakes, including media campaigns, public speaking, commissioning and publishing research. Lobbying (often by lobby groups) is a form of advocacy where a direct approach is made to legislators on a specific issue or specific piece of legislation.[1] Research[whose?] has started to address how advocacy groups in the United States[2] and Canada[3] are using social media to facilitate civic engagement and collective action.


There are several forms of advocacy, each representing a different approach in a way to initiate changes in the society. One of the most popular forms is social justice advocacy.[4] Cohen, de la Vega, and Watson (2001) state that this definition does not encompass the notions of power relations, people's participation, and a vision of a just society as promoted by social justice advocates. For them, advocacy represents the series of actions taken and issues highlighted to change the "what is" into a "what should be", considering that this "what should be" is a more decent and a more just society [4] Those actions, which vary with the political, economic and social environment in which they are conducted, have several points in common.[4] For instance, they:

Other forms of advocacy include:

Different contexts in which advocacy is used:


Margaret E. Keck and Kathryn Sikkink have observed four types of advocacy tactics:

  1. Information politics: quickly and credibly generating politically usable information and moving it to where it will have the most impact.
  2. Symbolic politics: calling upon symbols, actions, or stories that make sense of a situation for an audience that is frequently far away.
  3. Leverage politics: calling upon powerful actors to affect a situation where weaker members of a network are unlikely to have influence.
  4. Accountability politics: efforts to hold powerful actors to their previously stated policies or principles.[7]

These tactics have been also observed within advocacy organizations outside the USA.[8]

Use of the Internet

Groups involved in advocacy work have been using the Internet to accomplish organizational goals. It has been argued that the Internet helps to increase the speed, reach and effectiveness of advocacy-related communication as well as mobilization efforts, suggesting that social media are beneficial to the advocacy community.[3][9][10][2]

Other examples

Advocacy activities may include conducting an exit poll or the filing of an amicus brief.


See also: social issue

People advocate for a large number and variety of topics. Some of these are clear-cut social issues that are universally agreed to be problematic and worth solving, such as human trafficking. Others—such as abortion—are much more divisive and inspire strongly held opinions on both sides. There may never be a consensus on this latter type of issues, but intense advocacy is likely to remain. In the United States, any issue of widespread debate and deeply divided opinion can be referred to as a social issue. The Library of Congress has assembled an extensive list of social issues in the United States, ranging from vast ones like abortion to same-sex marriage to smaller ones like hacking and academic cheating.[11]

Topics that appear to involve advancing a certain positive ideal are often known as causes. A particular cause may be very expansive in nature — for instance, increasing liberty or fixing a broken political system. For instance in 2008, U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama utilized such a meaning when he said, "this was the moment when we tore down barriers that have divided us for too long; when we rallied people of all parties and ages to a common cause."[12] and Causes are two popular websites that allow people to organize around a common cause.

Topics upon which there is universal agreement that they need to be solved include, for example, human trafficking, poverty, water and sanitation as a human right.[13]

"Social issues" as referred to in the United States also include topics (also known as "causes") intended by their advocates to advance certain ideals (such as equality) include: civil rights, LGBT rights, women's rights, environmentalism, and veganism.

Transnational advocacy

Advocates and advocacy groups represent a wide range of categories and support several issues as listed on[14] The Advocacy Institute,[15] a US-based global organization, is dedicated to strengthening the capacity of political, social, and economic justice advocates to influence and change public policy.[16]

The phenomenon of globalization draws a special attention to advocacy beyond countries’ borders. The core existence of networks such as World Advocacy or the Advocacy Institute demonstrates the increasing importance of transnational advocacy and international advocacy. Transnational advocacy networks are more likely to emerge around issues where external influence is necessary to ease the communication between internal groups and their own government. Groups of advocates willing to further their mission also tend to promote networks and to meet with their internal counterparts to exchange ideas.[7]

Transnational advocacy is increasingly playing a role in advocacy for migrants rights, and migrant advocacy organizations have strategically called upon governments and international organizations for leverage.[8]

Transnational advocates spend time with local interest groups in order to better understand their views and wishes.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ "Lobbying Versus Advocacy: Legal Definitions". NP Action. Archived from the original on 2 April 2010. Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  2. ^ a b Obar, J.A.; Zube, P.; Lampe, C. (2012). "Advocacy 2.0: An analysis of how advocacy groups in the United States perceive and use social media as tools for facilitating civic engagement and collective action". Journal of Information Policy. 2: 1–25. doi:10.2139/ssrn.1956352. S2CID 145712218. SSRN 1956352.
  3. ^ a b Obar, Jonathan (4 December 2014). "Canadian Advocacy 2.0: A Study of Social Media Use by Social Movement Groups and Activists in Canada". Canadian Journal of Communication. doi:10.22230/cjc.2014v39n2a2678. SSRN 2254742.
  4. ^ a b c Cohen, D.; de la Vega, R.; Watson, G. (2001). Advocacy for social justice. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press.
  5. ^ Loue, S.; Lloyd, L.S.; O'Shea, D.J. (2003). "Community health advocacy". Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 60 (6). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers: [page needed]. doi:10.1136/jech.2004.023044. PMC 2563937. PMID 16698972.
  6. ^ Asbridge, M. (2004). "Public place restrictions on smoking in Canada: assessing the role of the state, media, science and public health advocacy". Social Science & Medicine. 58 (1): 13–24. doi:10.1016/s0277-9536(03)00154-0. PMID 14572918.
  7. ^ a b Keck, Margaret E.; Sikkink, Kathryn (1998). Activists beyond Borders Advocacy Networks in International Politics. Cornell University Press. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-8014-7129-2.
  8. ^ a b Kremers, Daniel (2014). "Transnational Migrant Advocacy From Japan: Tipping the Scales in the Policy-making Process". Pacific Affairs. 87 (4): 733. doi:10.5509/2014874715. Retrieved 5 November 2019.
  9. ^ Ope, J.A.M. (1999). "From the Streets to the Internet: The Cyber-Diffusion of Contention". Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 566: 132–143. doi:10.1177/0002716299566001011.
  10. ^ Eaton, M. (2010). "Manufacturing Community in an Online Activity Organization: The Rhetoric of's E-mails". Information, Communication & Society. 13 (2): 174–192. doi:10.1080/13691180902890125. S2CID 141971731.
  11. ^ "Table of contents for Social issues in America".
  12. ^ "Barack Obama's Caucus Speech". The New York Times. 3 January 2008.
  13. ^ UNICEF (2010). Advocacy toolkit - A guide to influencing decisions that improve children's lives (PDF). UNICEF. p. 144. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  14. ^ "World Advocacy - The world's premier source of advocacy groups".
  15. ^ "The Advocacy Institute".
  16. ^ Cohen, D.; de la Vega, R.; Watson, G. (2001). Advocacy for social justice. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press. [page needed].