With the ongoing situation regarding COVID-19, there has been great disruption to our everyday lives whether that be work or family lives. Major conferences concerning sustainable development have been affected, such as the COP26 in Glasgow being cancelled, and the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth summit being disrupted. However, this does not mean that advocacy has to stop, we have seen examples of campaigners moving their efforts online. For example, the climate action movement has adapted their mass protests to a #digitalstrike, or the use of a virtual picket line in Australia.
This blog post will give some top tips as to how to still advocate for what you care about through the pandemic. Useful for anyone working with RESULTS or any other advocacy organisation, or even if you are someone who perhaps is not already involved in advocacy but wants to get involved in something great!
Benefits of Online Advocacy:
We are somewhat advantaged in today’s globalised and interconnected world as even when we cannot physically act upon global issues we still have the internet to unite us. This allows us to take a bottom-up, grassroots approach by researching and targeting specific issues as active citizens in our own communities. Although consideration must be taken for those around us who, perhaps do not have as much easy access to the web – so if you know anyone in this situation be sure to include them in other ways, as we will discuss in this post!
10 Tips For Moving Online:
1. Refer to the structure of the organisation you’re advocating for as a starting point
If you are working with a specific organisation or charity then they most likely have their own structure to approach advocacy, it is worth communicating with your team/head offices to find out what this is to then take this and modify it for exceptional circumstances such as times like these.
At RESULTS, we take an approach of focusing on the citizen advocating for their cause (that’s us!) and how we can work with our MPs and parliament to change and improve policy and support the beneficiaries of our aid budget.
We can still follow the core RESULTS structure and advocacy methods as we used to (letters, emails, blog posts etc.) as well as some new ways which we will continue to explore further in this post.
2. Be active on social media
Social media is a great tool for sending out a message quickly and being able to interact with people and organisations globally. However, with social media being so widely used, it is sometimes difficult to stand out. We offer some tips here for using social media effectively:
- Schedule posts so that your profile has a regular, even stream of information
- Use visual content to get your message across
- Engage with groups with similar interests (see more on point 6)
- Use it to communicate with elected officials directly, for example by tweeting them
- Repost your content on different mediums, e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc.
- Twitter is good for putting out smaller, digestible versions of your message
3. Use up to date and accurate facts only and avoid scapegoating/biases
Blog posts and being active on social media is great, however, there can be a risk of producing material that scapegoats or accuses particular groups or political standpoints. This is definitely something to be avoided, we are looking to educate and raise awareness, not place blame.
That being said, posting up to date facts and figures is definitely something that should be promoted. Double-check that the data is from a reputable source (such as gov.uk, and not the tabloids) – check out our twitter to see how we spread information on our social media.
Additionally, try not to overwhelm people, presenting data in a way that does not have too much jargon and is supported by graphs/imagery is really helpful.
4. Do not directly compare countries, but do draw on their parallels to appeal to people
Something really important to remember is that we are all in this together and so comparing our experiences to those in the global south and attempting to draw on people’s guilt is not the way to go!
Instead, consider the parallels between what you are experiencing, what other members of society are experiencing as well as those in other parts of the world. For instance, the fact that we should all social distance and the lack of mobility of funding for supplies globally.
Remember: one social media post will not change people’s minds on how they view the world, but we can help to educate them/empathise with the globality of the issues we advocate for.
5. Highlight and commend what is already being done by both individuals and organisations (RESULTS, NHS etc)
In times like this, it is important to focus on the positives as well as the deficits/problems. Being aware and educated on issues should not distract from commending and recognising the impact key workers and institutions like NGO’s (and ourselves!) are doing.
Be sure to promote/post about/shoutout great advocacy work by your own team as well as other members of society.
Additionally, discussing technology/techniques that are benefitting the global community, such as practising social distancing/PPE, supported by data (see point 3) can give others a sense of hope and also support your own advocacy work by exemplifying the importance of secure health systems and funding programmes.
6. Network with similar causes online
Advocacy networking doesn’t have to stop because you can’t directly meet up with people. There are many benefits of connecting with other groups. When tackling global challenges, it is important to remember that we can be stronger together.
By linking with other groups, you can challenge each other’s ideas, and inspire each other to create the best outcome possible. You can network online to find similar causes, and then communicate your ideas. Find out what your common goals are, how your methods may differ, and engage in a constructive dialogue to reach your goals.
7. Give a voice to those who need it
This is a crisis that has affected virtually the whole world, with different countries coping in different ways. It is important to acknowledge our difficulty in the UK while also recognising the hardships that people in other countries may face.
There are adverse risks in developing countries. Other ongoing difficulties such as access to housing, employment, and healthcare can become even more exacerbated in the time of a crisis. Therefore, we must remember our common humanity, and think about the most marginalised in society, globally, when we carry out our actions.
8. Stay connected with your team
Although during this time, it is not possible to meet up with your team physically, you can still keep connected. For example, in-person meetups can be replaced by conference calls, Zoom is great for this!. Also, creating a group chat, using platforms such as Whatsapp, can be a quick way of communicating and can be more efficient than email. These can also be a key way to check in with each other and support each other beyond the advocacy work you are collaborating on.
9. Include those who are offline
Some people do not have a stable internet connection – or an internet connection at all. While it may seem very difficult to communicate during this time without this, you can try other forms of communication like phone calls or writing letters. This ensures that no one is left out and everyone can still remain active.
Remember, even whilst MP’s are not in their surgeries there are still many ways to contact them such as via phone and through the post so be sure to pass this kind of information on to any members of your team that cannot access it themselves.
10. Stay Safe!
Whilst advocacy and connecting with others is very important, so is keeping yourselves and others safe. Therefore, it is a must to follow government guidelines and social distance at all times.
If you are feeling burnt out/overwhelmed that is okay – look after mental wellbeing too and be sure to take time away from the screen for some headspace.
Remember, a great part of being a part of an advocacy organisation is the connections you make so if you need to, talk with your team or your friends about your worries and do not feel pressured to take on more work than you can manage!
Advocacy is a great way to do your part for society as well as during the ongoing crisis, especially if you need some time away from your school/uni work or your everyday job. We hope that these tips can help motivate and inspire any teams struggling with the ongoing adjustment into isolation.
Finally, and most importantly, keep educating and advocating, and stay safe!