What is advocacy?
There is no unique definition of advocacy. Most organizations and agencies define advocacy according to their field of work and the stakeholders they deal with.
However, most of the definitions point out three key aspects:
- Advocacy leads to positive, sustainable changes (often referring to changes in legislation, policy and/or practice);
- Advocacy addresses power relationships between the bearers of rights and those responsible for ensuring those rights are fulfilled (known as duty bearers); and
- Advocacy is not an event or a one-off activity, it is a strategic process.
The latest definitions call for a human rights approach to advocacy. In the case of child-focused organizations, this would involve using the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to apply rights-based advocacy. This implies that:
- child rights provide the legal foundation for all advocacy work;
- advocacy is an essential component of the rights-based approach: it is one of the strategies chosen to protect and promote children’s rights; and
- advocacy activities themselves must be rights-based, i.e. non-discriminatory, participatory, and performed in the best interests of the child.
For SOS Children’s Villages, advocacy is defined as:
In SOS Children’s Villages, advocacy is taking action to improve policies and practices that undermine the well-being of children* at risk of losing parental care, or those who have already lost it. Successful advocacy, based on our experience as a practitioner, leads to sustainable changes that ensure that these children can fully enjoy their rights in a supportive environment.
Advocacy activity – Advocacy project – Advocacy work
It is very unlikely that an organization has not been involved in advocacy, because advocacy is about triggering sustainable changes for the benefit of the children we work for. Advocacy may include anything from helping to secure adequate and sufficient alternative care options for children left without parental care, or lobbying a government to allocate more funds for after care services, to soliciting the UN to develop international guidelines on alternative care.
Advocacy activity: any single initiative undertaken to promote changes that lead to policy and practice that create a framework for the well-being of children and young people (e.g., petition, coalitions, lobbying and negotiation, awareness raising, participation in networks, conferences and seminars, etc.). It can be a specific advocacy activity in itself or an activity within a bigger project whose primary objective is not advocacy (e.g. research, direct services etc.).
Advocacy project: a more complex and multidimensional initiative, long-term oriented and combining different activities. It requires a project planning methodology.
Advocacy work (or simply “advocacy”): the sum of all advocacy activities and/or projects by a national association.
Our target group
It is important to keep in mind that although we promote the rights of all children in general, in our advocacy work we focus on children who are at risk of losing parental care or who have lost parental care, and on young people in care or with care experiences. These children and youngsters are the beneficiaries of the SOS Children’s Villages organization, and we have a special obligation to bring about changes that will ultimately be in their best interests.
* In accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, we define any person under the age of 18 as a child.