“Don’t give a man a fish, teach him how to fish”…but what if there is no longer any fish?
Rather teach him why the fish is drying up and how he can increase the fish in the pond.
The world has changed, and the role of the Christian Church is also changing. We have always been active in compassion and care, but we are now being called to work for justice in the area of advocacy.
What does advocacy mean?
Traditionally Christians stand by the river of poverty and see babies falling in. They take them out of the river, care for them, feed them, educate them, build houses to look after them. But at what point does the church go upstream to find out why the babies are falling into the river?
As a church we need to identify the causes of this poverty and advocate for change.
One definition of advocacy is the following:
“Transformational advocacy is the process of challenging ourselves and our leaders to change behaviours, policies and attitudes that perpetuate inequality and deny God’s will for human flourishing”.
Here are some tools for transformational advocacy.
Identify the problem and the root causes.
The advocacy should be around the issue that is causing the problem, for instance poverty being caused by pollution in the rivers.
Work with others
“Unusual coalitions of organisations and groups are often the most effective as they demonstrate the broad support for an issue”. Politicians find it harder to ignore your campaign if you come from different communities and groupings. You can then be strengthened by the expertise of other groups.
Utilize the right tools
We need to identify the people we want to influence – are they opponents, undecided or possible allies.
Which tools are most effective: a media release, private letter, research report, public meeting, march, social media campaign or a one on one meeting?
What are the tools we can use? We need the oxygen of publicity and the energy of people. So we need to get organisations or churches behind the campaign.
Motivate others to act
Think about what motivated you and your members to get involved. You need holy anger, empathy for those who are affected but also awareness of the issue. The most important tool is the voices of those most affected- stories, videos of the poor. You need to decide who you are going to target. For example if you want to target the youth you need to use social media.
Here is a helpful video that gives some ideas about advocacy
(Rev Rachel Mash . With thanks to Tom Baker. From a workshop with Tearfund and the Micah challenge on transformation advocacy)