Getting ‘Their’ Attention – Tips for Solution Based Advocacy (10)

What do you do when the organization, government department or institution you want to influence completely ignores you, your organization and the cause, you represent?  No matter how hard you try, your efforts are met with silence, inaction, and stalling.

This happens for a variety of reasons.  Your issue is not seen to be high profile enough; or you don't have a constituency the decisions makers respect; or they are not aware how many people you represent, or the depth of conviction, or seriousness of the issue. For whatever reason, you are not on the political radar screen. 

In this case you may have to resort to tactics and strategies which get their attention.  Usually that also means getting the attention of the broader public and the media.  My post on Thomas Clarkson last week reviewed many of the approaches, anti slave trade advocates used to raise the profile, educate the voter and non voter and put pressure on government to act. Marches, demonstrations, candlelight vigils, lawsuits, rallies, inquests, boycotts, first person accounts, film tours, campaign buttons, public meetings and street theatre.  I have used them all, particularly during my human rights campaigning days.  Some were successful; some weren't; some backfired and many I couldn't tell.  

Whatever you choose, Solution Based Advocacy provides guidance for ensuring they lead you in the direction of solutions. 

  • Make sure of your purpose.  Can you elevate the discussion?  Do you just want to feel better because you have spoken your mind, and expressed your moral outrage? Or do you want to open discussions leading to a solution?
  • Can you creatively illustrate your concern plus lay the foundation for future discussions without deliberately provoking anger, resentment or a 'shutting down'?  I use deliberately because you cannot always predict or control the response from others.
  • Treat representatives of the 'system' the way you would like your
    membership to be treated.
  • If you detect malice, vindictiveness or an intent to shame in your
    efforts I suggest you pause and reconsider.  Those negative emotions are bound to be reflected in your actions.
  • Continue to reach out to the 'system' even while using public pressure tactics.  Designate people who continue to speak and maintain lines of communication with the public service, bureaucrats and if possible elected officals.
  • Avoid recklessness – when adrenalin is high, you may say
    and do things which you might regret.
  • Can you combine your power with love and use it for constructive purpose? Think of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Dalai Lama or Nelson Mandela who are relentless in seeking justice while exemplifying ethical and spiritual purpose.  They have all the reasons in the world to be vindictive, outraged, and revengeful. Yet they are not. They engage, even with their enemies.

Remember once you get their attention you will still have to sit down and talk or negotiate.  I'll end with a quote from another wise activist Bernice Johnson Reagon (singer, composer, scholar, teacher and
founder of the a cappella group, Sweet Honey in the Rock ) She was writing about the feminist movement needing to convert from an attention getting strategy to negotiating for structural change on behalf of women.  Here's her quote:

The reason we are stumbling is that we are at the point where in order to take the next step we've got to do it with some folks we don't care too much about.

NOTE: This is the 10th is a series I call Solution Based Advocacy.  You can read previous posts by clicking the Advocacy Category on the right side of this page.  Please share and encourage others to subscribe.   

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