The Responsibility of Advocacy
Written by Andrea H. Reay, President/CEO of the Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce
As a parent, one of the most rewarding things I enjoy doing with my children is reading with them. Dr. Seuss was always a favorite of mine growing up, and I’ve loved sharing those stories with my children. One of our favorites is “The Lorax,” and the line I remember most in that book is: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Just like the Lorax, there are times when we are called to action. Advocacy is about more than caring, it’s about doing.
Being a good advocate means that you have a responsibility to participate as an advocate for the right reasons. You also must represent and promote your cause or position for your constituents as well as keep them informed. Information is critical at all levels of advocacy. The more information available, the better the process, and hopefully the better outcome. This is sometimes easier said than done. What happens when the data or information available runs contrary to your campaign or initiative? Good advocates will acknowledge, challenge, and confirm data. Bad advocates will refuse to acknowledge information, drop out of process discussions, or resort to emotional or personal attacks.
So how do you become a good advocate? The following are a few of the ways we try to approach our advocacy work at the Chamber, and we would encourage all who work as advocates within our community to do the same.
- Check your bias. We all have it. Our experiences, thoughts, feelings, and culture all create internal biases. The first step to acknowledging that you are biased, is to admit you are biased. Once you are aware, you can take steps to ensure that those biases don’t impact your decision making. Especially when you are working or volunteering to be an advocate for another, or for a cause or position you are passionate about, first ask yourself: Why? Ask yourself that question five times and try to dig deeper into your own internal processing systems. Once you know why and recognize deeply within yourself or your organization why advocacy is so important, then you can begin the process with the clear knowledge and direction of why it’s right for you.
- Work from facts. It’s tempting to begin advocating from an emotional place. However, most advocacy work follows traditional long game strategy points. When you rely on data and information you can be confident your decisions will yield better and enduring results. Of course, the more complicated the issues, the more complex and contrary the data models can become. Focus on collecting both quantitative data and qualitative data; analyzing both, in direct reference with each other and the issue at hand will give you the best possible perspective.
- Don’t ignore your opposition. Often advocates are quick to condemn or discount the perspective of their opponents. We see this in political candidates and it happens in many forms of negotiation. A good advocate will take the time to listen, be open to collaboration, and make a genuine effort to understand the “why” of their opponents with the same thoughtful intensity they used to understand their own.
Being a good advocate takes a lot of time, resources, energy and is an enormous responsibility. However, being a good advocate is also immensely rewarding. At the Chamber, we are proud to be an advocate for Southwest King County serving as a unifying voice for economic prosperity and community vitality for the Soundside region. For more information about our advocacy work, please visit our website http://www.seattlesouthsidechamber.com/advocacy.
This article was written by Andrea H. Reay, President/CEO of Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce, “A voice for business, a leader in the community.” Seattle Southside Chamber has served the communities of Burien, Des Moines, Normandy Park, SeaTac, and Tukwila since 1988. For more information about the Chamber, including a full list of member benefits and resources, please visit their website at www.SeattleSouthsideChamber.com
Parts of this blog article were originally published on the Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce Blog in July of 2017 and has been edited for conciseness and clarity. Source: http://b-townblog.com/2017/07/05/seattle-southside-chamber-of-commerce-the-responsibility-of-advocacy/