Craig Jenkins, Sociologist at Ohio State University, defines advocacy as “any attempt to influence the decision of any institutional elites on behalf of a collective influence”.
There is range of ways that advocacy can be employed, through activities like public speaking, protests, communicating with the media, holding public meetings, petitioning, or protesting (Pekkanen, Smith and Tsujinaka, 2014). Often campaigns arise when a community of people with shared experiences or interests come together to address one or several concerns.
When start starting a campaign research is critical. Research ensures that organisers are knowledgeable on their chosen area, as well as aware of the relevant policy, legislation and similar campaigns. This knowledge can further empower groups allowing them raise theirs concerns in an informed way and make an authoritative call for change (Advocacy Information, n.d.).
However the most effective advocacy helps people to identify issues and concerns:
“The heart of organising is empowering others to speak for themselves” (Pekkanen, Smith and Tsujinaka, 2014).
There are a number of techniques and tools, which can be employed to construct a successful advocacy campaign. By analysing the strengths and weakness of similar campaigns, this case study will identify the methods I intend apply and faults I aim to avoid.
About the Campaign
Appetite For Change (AFC) is a United States of America based, non-for-profit organisation, operating out of North Minneapolis. The organisation was founded in early 2011, and is a community led project that aims to strengthens families, creates economic prosperity, and encourages healthy living. AFC uses food as a tool building health, wealth, and social change in the area (Appetiteforchangemn.org, 2016).
“Appetite For Change is committed to using food as a mechanism for addressing racial, social, and economic inequities as well as impacting health disparities. Food can be a powerful tool to build health, wealth and promote positive change in the community.
We believe that when families come together around the dinner table to reclaim the kitchen as a place to bond with and educate children, then communities become stronger and more capable to advocate for themselves and against the injustices they experience. Bringing people together around food is one way to build capacity for creating social, racial and economic justice while bettering communities and making families more powerful agents of change.” (Facebook.com, 2016)
The target audience for the AFP campaign is the middle class community, specifically families living in North Minneapolis. This can be seen through their mission statement, which refers to families and children as groups that they wish to educate and empower. While the specific audience for this campaign is quite specific it is a concern shared by many communities around the world. The events, activities and operations of this campaign may be of interest to a wider audience, looking to replicate a similar organisation in their community.
AFC promote their campaign through their website appetiteforchangemn.org. This platform allows the coordinators to promote their mission and advertise their campaign. This gives their audience a place where they can easily access information, contribute through donations and participate in the campaign.
AFC use make effective use of their website, which is efficient and easy to navigate, unifying the various aspects of the campaign. The campaign uses citizen advocacy to enlighten and empower the community.
Use of Citizen Advocacy
Citizen advocacy gives members of the community a voice by involving them in making decision about aspects that affect their lives.
AFC uses citizen advocacy by facilitating community workshops, training and opportunities for members of the community who have a passion for sustainable food systems, local growers and bringing people together. Citizen advocacy often relies on members of the community to volunteer and while AFC has developed so that they are able to offer employment opportunities, the campaign still calls for volunteers, donations, workshop facilitators, as well as people to buy their produce (Scie.org.uk, 2015).
The campaign’s use of citizen advocacy highlights AFC as a strong example of empowering the community to identify issues, be further educated and find their own voice. This is a trait that advocacy should aspire too and one which I aim to implement when constructing my campaign.
AFC have made themselves an establish presence in social media, increasing their audience exposure and access to the Minneapolis community. The campaign utilises Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to promote their cause and keep their audience up to date with the campaign’s operations.
Instagram is their weakest social media presence. With only eight posts, it is clear this profile is not maintained as regularly as their Facebook and Twitter pages. While this is to no detriment to the success of their advocacy, I would argue that their campaign has organically produced some striking images, which clearly portray the their purpose. As an image driven platform, they have the ability to better use Instagram and potentially find a wider audience.
Facebook is where AFC have their strongest audience. The AFC page has more than 2,800 ‘likes’ with a 4.8/5 review rating. The Facebook page gives new individuals a clear snapshot of their story and purpose through the ‘about’ page, providing contact information and their website for further material. The page provides an extensive number of photos from their various activities and workshops as well as provides a calendar of upcoming events. There are videos available, a place to sign up for their newsletter and supporters to donate and contribute to the campaign. This is a clear example of how advocates can use social media to enhance their campaign, provide a centralised location for a variety of information and access new audiences.
About the Campaign
The Sydney Food Fairness Alliance (SFFA) is a non-for-profit organisation that was founded in 2005. The alliance promotes food security and an environmentally sustainable food system in Sydney and the surrounding areas, including broader New South Wales, providing a more localised example of an effective food security campaign. SFFA have established a network by coordinating rural producers, health professionals, community workers and community based advocates (The Sydney Food Fairness Alliance, 2016).
“Do you want to support local farmers? Are you concerned that some people in Sydney do not have enough to eat? Do you want our food grown using organic, environmentally beneficial techniques?Are you concerned about the loss of agricultural land in the Sydney Basin? Do you want to help every person, regardless of status or income, get reliable access to affordable fresh and healthy food?
Then please join us!
We are a group of ordinary people working towards equal access to nourishing food and promoting fair food prices for farmers and consumers.We encourage every person to support local, environmenally sustainable farming.Buy your fresh food direct from the farmgate, join a cooperative, or a try using a box delivery provider.” (Facebook.com, 2016)
Similar to the AFC, SFFA had quite a specific audience, targeting middle class Australians living in Sydney and broader New South Wales. The issues and concerns are particularly relevant for people working in a number of industries including agriculture, permaculture, organic food and hospitality. However the campaign promotes itself as encompassing a wide variety of members from the community, suggesting their audience may not be as specific as AFC. Again the issues and concerns highlighted by the organization are prevalent across Australia and the world. Therefore people who do not fit this specific audience but have similar concerns for their area may use this campaign as a reference.
SFFA makes effective uses of their website, allowing visitors to navigate their various resources and features of the campaign. However, aesthetically their website is not as appealing or as easy to navigate as the AFC page. The website appears to be slightly crowded and dull, lacking in the clarity which may dissuade new viewers. While it may match the AFC campaign with resources and information available, the appearance and navigability could be improved.
SFFA is another strong example of citizen advocacy, using their website and social media to educate and empower the community. While their website might not be clear, their have a strong presence on both Twitter and Facebook.
Their Twitter pages clearly states their purpose and is used regularly, reaching more than 1,100 ‘followers’. Their tweets link relevant information in the media, providing their audience with stimulating and relevant content while also keeping them informed. Their Twitter profile links audiences back to their website and to their Facebook page for more information on their campaign.
The SFFA Facebook page is used efficiently to engage campaign supporters and new audiences. The page clearly states their purpose and concerns, concisely communicating their mission and how interested individuals can get more information or contribute to the cause. While their Facebook pages has significantly less ‘likes’ than AFC’s it also is successful in using the platform correlate information, promoting their work through photos, advertising upcoming events and showcasing relevant media stories.
Effective advocacy should to insight change in a direct and empowering way. A successful campaign encourages and supports to individuals to speak out for themselves and enact change, “this is the goal, which underpins all forms of high quality advocacy” (Scie.org.uk, 2015).
I believe both campaigns are good examples of advocacy though empowerment, something that I aspire to replicate in my campaign. By highlighting the various strengths and weaknesses in SFFA and AFC I hope to be able to generate a effective food security campaign which uses videos, articles and social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram to draw wider audiences while educating and empowering my community.
I have recently viewed a TEDx talk by Patty Cantrell, which communicates many of the ideas that I wish to advocate in my campaign. Her concerns and the issues she speaks about are shared all around the world and this is what I have chosen this issue for my campaign.
You can view her talk here: