WHAT IS ADVOCACY AND WHY SHOULD IT BE IMPORTANT TO US?

Why do we need to talk about what happens to us? From the time we are children we need to express out loud  what we are doing  in order to process it and do it better (observe a child while coloring, giving himself/herself instructions for not going over the lines ; or when we have a problem and we call a friend to go have a cup of coffee to talk about it). When referring to society, this happens when we see the same news story over and over again. This means that we are all trying make sense of this novelty, this phenomena: we are trying to understand it, name it, and eventually solve it. What doesn´t have a name is not understood and therefore, is not resolved.

This is the principle of Social Advocacy. To put a topic out there: insist on its importance, on its repercussion and on some initial ideas of what would have to happen for it to be resolved. Those that normally do this are the ones that are affected by the problem. The so called activists  usually start the mobilizations on many occasions because they get involved at a personal level.

All of this sounds very good. But what happens when we refer to topics in which we have lost collective hope?  Those topics in which the first thing that comes to mind is “why do anything, if nothing is going to change?” In this case the situation is even more complex because the topic isn´t even mentioned in the media; It is an invisibilized topic. The topic is buried and we have given up. We could say that it has become normalized: the underdevelopment of  national sports, the low educational level in public schools, bad service in public health institutions, people throwing garbage on the streets, corruption. There are issues on this list  that are discussed more often and others that are talked about less frequently, but all of them have common discourses and justifications. “It´s because we are from a third world country” “It has always been like this” “eventhough we complain nothing happens”.

And I want to dwell a little on this last justification, on the complaint. dlR´s  México Emergente (Emergent Mexico) study  (1) has clear indicators that tell us that we as Mexicans are fed up and we want a change. If we think about it one of the biggest changes  already taking place around us has been how brands are more attentive to what the consumers want, and people are more aware of their active role in the improvement of  brand performance. Everyone seems to have understood that  “virtuous circle”: executives have not been indifferent to the participative role of the people (there are those that even call consumers, prosumers) and above all, people know they are powerful. The key is how to transfer that to social topics;  how to transfer those rights that we have understood little by little and that we have as consumers to change the citizen mindset: “we are so used to having our rights violated that when they are exercised we call them privileges” (2)

One key towards achieving this transferance  is complaint. Demystify  the idea that complaints are useless , that complaints are for “complainers” , that complaints are for people that do not contribute to society. On the contrary: We need to raise our voices, find mechanisms to do it and not give up  because “nothing happens anyway” is the answer. The service in a restaurant does improve if you explain the problem to the manager: brands do take the comments  made about them on social networks seriously; a business will develop CSR programs as long as its consumers see the value in the initiatives (3), and the politicians will be pressured to the extent in which the citizens understand their rights and insist, insist and insist that they must be respected and that it´s not about privileges. This is the purest advocacy, to feel powerful. First, believe that the solution exists and next understand something simple: we are closer to the solution if we don´t stay quiet and demand, demand, demand until things change. Because things do change. There are many examples.

It´s common to quote Martin Luther King Jr when we talk about truly transformational things . He used to say that our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. What issues do you recognize in your environment that could change but that we have invisibilized? Let´s start there.

 

References:

  1. De la Riva (2015) México Rifado. Ambar Diseño
  2. Merlín (@vulgtas) 28 Junio 2017; 1:58PM. Tweet.
  3. http://www.delarivagroup.com/es/responsabilidad-social/