Public and people-centered advocacy are shaped by the political culture, social systems, and constitutional framework of the country in which they are practiced. It is the practice of advocacy that determines the theory, and not vice a versa. If advocacy is not rooted in grassroots realities and is practiced only at the macro level, the voice of the marginalized is increasingly likely to be appropriated by professional elites. However, the very credibility of advocacy practitioners depends on their relationship with mass-based movements and grassroots perceptions of what constitutes desirable social change.
Rights based and people centered advocacy almost always challenges power structures and can therefore be very difficult and risky work. A key concern for civil society organizations is how to deal with threats that often have to be faced by the community in the face of vibrant people centered advocacy. For example, in the case of the campaign against insecure land tenure in Nepal, bonded labourers advocated for their liberation under constant threat from landlords.
The present article is based on people centered advocacy which leads to leadership among marginalized communities. It also discusses the role of marginalized communities in the process of formulation of policies. The present article will urges all concerns related to people centered advocacy and marginalized leadership.
Key Words: Leadership, development, skills, democracy, transparency, people, centered, advocacy, marginalized, practice, etc.
Effective Leadership is aimed at the individual who is serious about improving his or her own leadership development capabilities. The author aims to stimulate an awareness of leadership, provide an understanding of the principles and functions of leadership, and guide the reader through the methods used to develop leadership skills, (John Adair1988).
Greater democracy, transparency and the work of civil society groups to hold decision-makers accountable are more likely to achieve long term sustainable change for poor people. What is meant by being people centered? The people centered approach prioritizes empowering people to advocate for pro-poor policies themselves. Simply put, its goal is to help poor people discover and secure their rights. For this to happen people need to become empowered, organized and mobilized – able to express their basic needs and negotiate them with outside actors., on the other hand advocacy work that supports and enables people to better negotiate, on their own behalf, for their basic needs and basic rights is what is becoming known as people-centered advocacy,(Jennifer Chapman andAmbokaWameyo, January 2001).
Such advocacy need not just be local, and can strike to the heart of national – even international – policy making. With people centered advocacy, people become powerful. The people centered approach challenges the notion that the poor cannot formulate or understand policy, arguing instead that the gap between the poor and policy makers must be decreased and that states, governments and policy makers should be responsive to the voices of the excluded.
‘People centered advocacy’ is work that directly involves people negotiating better, on their own behalf, for their basic rights. People centered advocacy is often, but not always, associated with local level work in which people are supported to analyze their own situations, identify their rights, make their views heard and hold decision makers accountable.
Advocacy is a word that is up for grabs in public discourse, research, and policy. Journalists, activists, academicians, lawyers, government officials, classifiers, non-profit managers, and others use the word differently in their professions. “Advocacy” describes a wide range of individual and collective expression or action on a cause, idea, or policy. It may also refer to specific activities or organizations.
Sometimes a distinction is made between advocacy on behalf of others and grassroots advocacy or civic and political participation. The word is often modified to describe the venue for political action. Discussion about non-profit advocacy that reaches across academic disciplines and professions often encounters definitional problems. Does the word “advocacy” clarify or confuse this discourse? Does the word have negative or positive attributes? How does it compare to other words that describe civic and political engagement, words like social action, political action, and public voice, social capital, mobilizing, or organizing? Is it a useful word for research and analysis? Do regulatory constraints associated with nonprofit lobbying and political activities create confusion about its meaning and application to nonprofit practices? To lessen ambiguity in research and regulation about non-profit advocacy, it is important to define which activities are advocacy activities, what advocacy activities are regulated and why, and which organizations are advocacy groups.
Sorting through definitions and use of “advocacy” clarifies discussions about the role and behavior of non-profits as social and political actors, non-profit impact on governance and citizen participation, and the scope and rationale of regulation for non-profit political activities. Some of the more common entanglements in defining and using the term in research and regulation are noted below.
Advocacy Activities and Organizations:
Advocacy activities can include public education and influencing public opinion; research for interpreting problems and suggesting preferred solutions; constituent action and public mobilizations; agenda setting and policy design; lobbying; policy implementation, monitoring, and feedback; and election-related activity. However, there is no agreement on which activities constitute advocacy, and no one source gives a full account of the many kinds of activities and strategies groups use to leverage influence in the policy process. Each research project must define the activities important to the question under study.
Further, there must be continual clarification about what kinds of activities are subject to regulation. Although data on organizations are available through a variety of sources, it is difficult to use them for the study of non-profit advocacy. When researchers operationalize advocacy as a broad set of activities (Boris and Mosher-Williams 1998), data collection and classification of advocacy activities can be difficult and imprecise.
When research focuses on a smaller subset of activities, such as lobbying or litigation (Salamon 1995), the empirical profiles often provide only a partial picture of the wider phenomena. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data for advocacy analysis are limited to the collection of information on lobbying expenditures. Definitional problems come into full play when data are combined from diverse sources, such as lobbying disclosure data, Federal Election Commission (FEC) data, Encyclopedia of Organizations data, and surveys. Additionally, the significance of any data set can be over stated in paper titles such as “Explaining Non-profit Advocacy” or “Non-profit Advocacy Organizations.”
It is also important to clarify which groups are “advocacy “organizations. All non-profits build organizational capacity and infrastructure to meet their missions, although groups that engage in advocacy are likely to strengthen their organizations in ways most useful to achieving their political goals. Groups engage in advocacy activities to various extents: as the primary focus of their work, as a regular part of their overall activities, and on occasion when an issue spurs them to action. Some groups have specific organizational structures and decision making processes to accommodate their political affairs; others join coalitions or policy networks to increase their capacity to advocate effectively.
There are over 1.5 million non-profit organizations grouped into classification schemes of many shapes and sizes offering different windows into nonprofit advocacy. The federal tax code separates non-profits into 21-plus categories of tax-exempt organizations, and permissible political activities vary by category. Using IRS taxonomy of organizations and data helps us understand levels of expenditures for certain kinds of legislative and political activities. It also structures the use of the tax-exempt form for political purposes. For example, social welfare organizations, 501 (c) (4)’s, may engage in unlimited amounts of legislative lobbying and thus serve as an organizational vehicle for citizens who wish to associate for public policy purposes. Other tax-exempt groups, such as trade and professional associations, veterans groups, and labour unions, share the same benefits of association and latitude of political action and are also active political players. Thus it is hard to get a full picture from these data and classification schemes about the extent to which groups interface with the process of policy development and policymaking.
Most analysis of the non-profit sector requires a rigorous look at the links between specific activities and specific organizations. Advocacy activities are embedded in distinct organizational models, setting boundaries around the practice of advocacy and participation in the political process by insiders and outsiders alike (Minkoff 1999).
Interest groups, political organizations, mobilizing groups, public interest groups, citizen organizations, multi-issue organizations, social movement organizations, and other descriptions of non-profit organizations as policy actors fill our democratic vocabulary and adopt different advocacy activities and strategies. Jeffrey Berry points out, “It is not their tax status that distinguishes them from other non-profits, but rather it’s that they are openly and aggressively political” (Berry 1999). Other social science research contributes to our understanding of organizations and activities. For example, interest groups have been studied at the national level to determine how patrons shape their advocacy practices (Walker 1991).
Social movement organizations mobilize resources from their broader environment; over time, the loose alliances and protests of social movements evolve into more routine advocacy in nonprofit organizations (Zald and McCarthy 1987). Some research asks which groups are effective advocates, what kinds of activities are effective, and at what stages of the policy process groups are most successful (Rees1998; Berry 1999).
Representation and Participation:
Non-profit organizations are intermediaries between citizens and other institutions of government and business. They deepen the ways in which people are represented and participate in democracies. Contrasting advocacy as organizational representation with advocacy as social and political participation can be a useful way to describe how non-profit organizations relate to the body politic.
Non-profit advocacy as representation evokes the familiar phrase “on behalf of.” This interpretation draws meaning from the Latin word advocate coming to the aid of someone. A strong tradition of case advocacy exists in the United States. Advocates appeal through court action on behalf of individuals and classes of people whose interests are underrepresented in government. Case advocacy may open the political system to new voices and interests as the courts redefine the rights of individuals and the roles of state and society in addressing social problems. When advocacy is viewed as representation of interests, values, or preferences, questions may arise about the legitimacy of organizations to represent us. Non-profit it’s that are regular players in policy and politics may or may not include citizens in their internal organizational affairs or engage citizens in public action. Further, organizational styles of advocacy vary and the non-profit community can be divided in its approaches to social reform.
Social justice advocates prefer their efforts not to be associated with special interest lobbies or inside political operators striking deals with little public consent or exploiting the political system to serve a narrow interest. Community organizers, who urge citizens to come together and speak out about their concerns, prefer not to be confused with the paternalistic styles of professional do gooders.
Advocacy, examined as social and political participation, emphasizes how people take action “on their own behalf.” Nonprofit advocacy as participation refers to collective action and social protest as well as the face-to-face contact of people and their political leaders. Language about the practice of advocacy as participation includes grassroots action, civic voice, public action, citizen action, organizing, mobilization, and empowerment. We look to participation indicators to judge the health of our democracy, but whether or not we are currently in a participatory drought depends on the indicator. If voting is a measure, we are about to die of thirst. If volunteering is a measure, we have found an oasis. If campaign donations are a measure, we are in a flash flood. Nonprofit organizations are central to civic engagement, especially churches, unions, and other groups that link citizens to governance. Social networks that develop norms of trust and reciprocity among Citizens—social capital—may shape the conduct of citizens in democratic decision-making (Putnam 2000).
Advocacy as participation addresses the ways organizations stimulate public action, create opportunities for people to express their concerns in social and political arenas, and build the resources and skills necessary for effective action (Verba, Schlozman, and Brady1995). Professionalized advocacy organizations and political consultants may have replaced earlier traditions of civic engagement and political action (Skocpol and Fiorina 1999).
The distinction between advocacy as organizational representation and as participation has led to the contradictory use of the terms “direct” and “indirect” advocacy in practice and research. In research, indirect advocacy may describe the participatory aspects of nonprofit advocacy, particularly the capacity of groups to stimulate individual citizens to take action on their own behalf. In contrast, direct advocacy may refer to lobbying and other appearances before key decision makers by organizational representatives on behalf of others (McCarthy and Castelli 1996). Adding to the confusion, the IRS calls lobbying on specific legislation “direct advocacy,” while community organizers call mobilization “direct action.”
Government Centered and People Centered Advocacy:
Government-centered advocacy and society-centered advocacy suggest different venues are available for building the political will to leverage policy change. In the American political system, the organization of interests is often described as an interaction of three sectors government, society, and business with competition and cooperation among these sectors when matters of public concern need attention. Global advocacy in the international system refers to advocacy among organizations and their networks in civil society, international institutions, and national governments.
Advocacy is often modified to describe the venue of action, and the resulting terms may be used interchangeably in law, research, and practice to describe either activities or venues. Policy advocacy most frequently refers to advocacy that influences government policymaking. But Craig Jenkins’s definition of policy advocacy as “any attempt to influence the decisions of institutional elite on behalf of a collective interest” (Jenkins 1987) encompasses decision making in any kind of institution inside and outside of government.
Administrative advocacy, judicial advocacy, and legislative advocacy can help us focus on the uniqueness of decisions and processes in the different branches of government (OMB Watch 2000). Administrative advocacy and program advocacy focus on advocacy during the implementation phase of the policy process, when rules and regulations are promulgated and service delivery systems designed and put in place, sometimes with feedback from citizen groups (Reid 1998). Program advocacy is also used to describe the everyday work of organizations carrying out their charitable missions or providing services, as long as the activities are not outside the realm of protected speech; does not refer to specific legislation; and does not become partisan activity (Hopkins 1993).
People centered advocacy suggests that nonprofits have an important role to play outside government in shaping public opinion, setting priorities for the public agenda, and mobilizing civic voice and action. People centered advocacy most often describes advocacy as social action, social change, or social movements. Non-profits are vehicles for developing common visions and social missions, and advancing common interests and values collectively. They analyze, interpret, and convey information in society and thus create the context for government policy.
State and local advocacy is often distinguished from national advocacy because organizational resources, opportunities, and practices differ. Most grassroots advocacy takes place at the state and local level, yet national organizations are often the focus of research and media exposure. Organizational networks and practices are less formal at the local level. Advocacy may still be contentious or competitive, but the intimacy of the local setting means that activists and government officials may have more access to one another and may share social networks and contacts that mediate conflict. National-level advocacy, by comparison, involves larger, more formal organizations, structures, and practices. The links between national and local organizations may influence whether local voice has an organizational route to national decision making.
Nonprofit advocacy advances the interests or values of a group that stands to benefit from action in the policy process or elsewhere. One measure of advocacy effectiveness is the extent to which a group succeeds in shaping new policy that directly benefits its constituency. Public interest advocacy makes broad public claims in the policy process on behalf of consumers and citizens. Organizations advocating for the disabled, the elderly, or an ethnic group, for example, may be more narrowly defined by their constituencies. Beneficiaries of advocacy, or those who stand to gain from policy change, may be the organizations themselves (through contracts) or groups of citizens (through public programs), or the public (through widely applicable policy).
Self-defense advocacy is lobbying on issues necessary to an organization’s survival. None of these definitions are much help in understanding the wide range of non-profit behaviors that make groups weak or powerful voices in policymaking. They do, however, help us locate where the advocacy is occurring and think about how advocacy used in one arena might affect outcomes in another. Although the definitions say little about how groups acquire access or influence decisions in any one arena, they do lead us to think about the processes for decision making in each arena that may affect opportunities for access or make one kind of activity more influential than another.
Lobbying and Advocacy:
In April 1999, the General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report on lobbying definitions in the Lobby Disclosure Act and the Internal Revenue Code Sections 4911 and 162(e). Their findings indicate that agencies use lobbying language to describe different sets of activities at the national, state, and local levels. These differences were found to affect registration and reporting requirements as well (GAO 1999).
Adding to the confusion, government and private funding agencies send mixed messages to contractors and grantees about the permissibility of engaging in advocacy and about reporting it. For example, IRS guidance indicates that lobbying is permissible because it is limited but not prohibited. Some agencies and foundations discourage the use of “advocacy” to describe organizational mission and activities. Foundations may use restrictive grant language that unnecessarily discourages grant recipients from engaging in advocacy when they are legally permitted to do so under the law.
Issue advocacy, on the other hand, is an advocacy activity that has been a source of contention in law and practice because it generally falls outside the scope of either the IRS or FEC regulation as public education. Yet it is a powerful tool for groups advocating reform and favoring candidates with positions compatible with their organizational interests.
Issues of Marginalization:
In the Indian context this has proved to be extremely inadequate both for understanding the processes by which minorities are created and for taking care of the disadvantages faced by them. At the time of independence, minorities were identified primarily on the basis of religious identity. Even though the Constitution spoke of linguistic and cultural minorities little attention was given to them and their problems. Shortly after independence, however, the demand for linguistic reorganization created zones within which one particular linguistic community was dominant. Linguistic minorities in the national context were thus transformed into a regional majority. However, this process created new minorities for example, Bengalis in Assam, Tamils in Karnataka and Gorkhas in Bengal- who faced the same problem of marginalization within the region as the recognized regional languages had faced within the Indian union.
The problems confronted by these new minorities have revealed the limitations of the concept of minority and the associated idea of minority rights. Minorities, it is evident, are context specific. A community may be a majority in the nation but a minority in a particular region. For instance, Hindus constituted the religious majority in India but in the state of Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir they represented a minority. Accordingly, in this region their educational institutions were designated as minorities’ institutions within the region. Further, it is perhaps equally important to note that a majority and a minority are identified with reference to an identity and, the use of diverse identities does not always yield the same majority and minority. In India, when religion is taken as the basis of differentiating the population, Hindus constitute a majority; however when language becomes the relevant index of identity then certain groups within the majority become vulnerable minorities. Indeed, in India, the tendency to identify permanent and fixed Minorities has resulted in the privileging of religious identity. It is also focused on the problems faced by Muslims and other religious minorities and their rights within the nation-state. By comparison, scant attention has been paid to the problems faced by linguistic minorities or other backward and socially discriminated communities.
Minority rights, it must be noted, are best suited for preserving cultures and identities rather than countering the processes of marginalization. In India the concerns of linguistic minorities within the nation-state were addressed by reorganizing the boundaries of regions or provinces. Linguistic reorganization transformed Minorities in the national context in to majorities in a regional context. Even though specific linguistic groups remained vulnerable Minorities in a region, languages which had not been officially reorganized by the nation were now able to preserve their identity. In other words, transformation of a minority in to a majority allowed for the survival of the recognized regional language. This is significant because in the discourse on multiculturalism, preserving one’s cultural identity is often seen as a way of countering the marginalization faced by minorities in the nation-state. In India, by comparison, protecting cultures and diversities has not been an effective way of halting the processes of marginalization. Indeed, even the attempt to preserve a marginalized culture has left the structures that engender marginalization intact.
The Indian experience obliviously tells a different story. It reveals the difficulties associated with the identification of a minority, and shows that a minority is almost entirely context dependent. Further, since minority rights generally seek to preserve cultures and community practices, they are often insensitive to the democratic need for creating a public sphere in which freedom and equality are the operative norms. In so far as the latter is, and must remain, the primary concern of all democracies, it is necessary to contextualize minority rights and analyze the conditions under which these rights are well-suited with the democratic agenda.
Untouchable Movements in the Indian Context:
A section of untouchables who could improve their economic condition, either by abandoning their traditional occupations, launched struggles for higher status in the caste hierarchy. They followed Sanskritic norms and rituals. They tried to justify their claim to a higher social status in the caste hierarchy by inventing suitable mythologies. All untouchable jatis, however, have not succeeded in removing civic disabilities traditionally imposed upon them. Practically they are still treated as untouchables in their places of residence (Shyamlal 1981; Brar 1985; Kumar 1985; Parmar 1987).
A major anti-untouchability movement was launched by Dr. Ambedkar in the 1920s in Maharashtra. This has continued in different forms till today. Though the movement is primarily rooted in Maharashtra, it has spread to different parts of the country and acquired an all- India character. Dr. Ambedkar emerged as the leader of untouchables of the country. During the 1920s the Mahars launched unsuccessful satyagrahas against untouchability in Maharashtra. Ambedkar saw the possibility of advancement for the untouchables through the use of political means to achieve social and economic equality with the highest classes in modern society (Zelliot 1970; Nath 1987).
Amedkar organized the Independent Labour party (ILP) on secular line for protecting the interests of the labouring classes. Though the party was open to the labourers belonging to al the castes, it was dominated by the Mahars. It did not make much of an impact. ‘their political movement overrode efforts to claim religious rights, failed in the attempts to represent class or labour, and took on much of the nature of caste association functioning in the political arena’,(Zelliot 1970). Later, Ambedkar formed the Scheduled Caste Federation (SCF) in 1954, to fight elections and look after the interests of the SCs. Those interests were confined to reservations of jobs and political positions (Verba et al. 1972; Nath 1987). The SCF was later converted in to the Republican Party in 1956, with the intention of broadening its base by including in its fold the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and backward castes.
Assertion of dalit identity has almost become a central issue of dalit movements. This involves local-level collective action against discrimination and atrocities. Statues of Dr. Ambedkar are found not only in urban dalit localities but also in many villages where their number is fairly large. Dalits, though very poor, enthusiastically contribute to installing Ambedkar statues in their neighborhoods. They struggle to get a piece of land from local authorities to install the statue. Radhey Lal Boudh of the Dalit Panthers argued in the 1980s that installing Ambedkar’s statue dalits could propogate an Ambedkarite iconography, which would generate a kind of pan- Indian bahujan ‘imagined community’, apart from asserting their control over land (Pai 2002). The statues and photos of Dr. Ambedkar are an expression of dalit consciousness and their assertion for identity.
There are several local movements in which dalits en mass migrate from their villages protesting against discrimination and atrocities. In the 1980s there were five such incidents. Desai and Maheria (2002) document one of the micro-level movements. In protests against torture and beating, the dalits of village Sambarda undertook hijarat, i.e. en mass migration like refugees from their native village and camped in the open before the district collector’s office for 131 days in 1989.
Organizations and Leadership:
Ambedkar formed the Independent Labour Party and Scheduled Caste Federation, and there are a number of Scheduled Caste organizations at regional levels. But there is no study focusing on the organizational set up and leadership and their efforts aimed at mobilizing the Scheduled Castes. Owen Lynch, in his study, The Politics of Untouchability (1969, gives some information regarding the organization of the Jatavas of the Agra city. Denis Von der weid and Guy Poitevin (1981) give a brief account of the organization of the RCDA, Tamil Nadu. Saurabh Dube has analyse the Satnami Mahasabha between 1925 and 1950 showing how it had undergone changes.
Robert Hardgrave (1969) and A. Aiyappan (1944) give an account of the Nadars and Iravas. They are caste associations like any other caste organizations involved in the process of political mobilization. Hardgrave observed that, The Nadar Mahajan Sangam is a voluntary association, drawn from the ascriptive, reservoir of castes. Its actual membership is but a fraction of its potential in full caste recruitment, but the association claims to speak for the community as a whole, asserting virtual representation. If this claim is to be accepted as credible in the light of economic differentiation and the diffusion of political support within the community, the association must withdraw from active political involvement. The caste association has played a vital role, nevertheless, in the political mobilization of the Nadar community, serving as the agent of community integration and as the vechile for its entrance in to the political system of modern India (1969-2001).
Moreover, as peasants, the harijans participated in the various peasant struggles. In a few movements they acted autonomously under the leadership of and the organization of militants drawn from among themselves (Heningham, 1981).
The most important leader of the dalit movement in India was Dr. Ambedkar. There are quite a few bibliographies of Ambedkar. Among them the important ones are by Dhanjay Keer (1954), W.N. Kuber (1973) and M.S. Gore (1993). Eleanor Zelliot’s study on Dr. Ambedkar and the Mahars is a very important contribution to the subject (1996). Gore analyses Ambedkar’s ideology and locates it within the broader framework of a study on social movements, on the one hand, and the sociology of idea systems, on the other. According to Zelliot, Ambedkar’s programmes were intended to integrate the untouchables in to Indian society in modern, not traditional ways, and on as high a level as possible. Ambedkar planned his program to bring the untouchable from a state of ‘dehumanization’ and ‘slavery’ into one of equality through the use of modern methods based on education and the exercise of legal and political rights. At the same time, Ambedkar’s modernizing ideology was tempered in practice by a clear perception of the tenacity of caste and tradition. He sought to awaken in the untouchable’s awareness of their debased condition and common interests that would promote the unity needed for the development of effective organizations and mass action. For such reasons, Ambedkar advocated a separatist policy accentuating caste distinctions as an initial stage in creating a society in which identities would be unimportant (Zelliot, 1972).
In conclusion, the term advocacy has multiple meanings depending on the context in which it is used. It broadly describes the influence of groups in shaping social and political outcomes in government and society. In law and regulation, advocacy refers to types of reportable activities, but regulatory agencies may differ on their use of the term. In research, advocacy may describe both the representational and participatory aspects of groups as intermediaries between citizens and decision - makers, types of organizations and their capacity to advocate, and strategies of action in different venues.
No one definition of advocacy suffices to help us understand how groups influence policymaking or how regulation can best be designed to protect against political abuses yet not inhibit public engagement in the political life of the nation. Yet the term can be used broadly as an umbrella for cross-cutting discussion from different perspectives and expertise to help inform regulation and practice. If discussions about non-profit advocacy practice and regulation are to bridge discourse across academic disciplines, organizational expertise, and regulatory perspectives, participants will have to be precise about the meaning of advocacy.
In general the advocacy describes both the representational and participatory aspects of groups such as untouchables and minority communities as intermediaries between citizens and decision - makers, types of organizations and their capacity to advocate, and strategies of action in different venues for the social, economic, political and cultural spheres of integrated development of these communities.
Hence, it is significantly true that the people centered advocacy is the effective tool for the overall development and enhance the leadership capabilities among marginalized communities.
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6. Parekh, Bhikhu, (1995), Cultural and Liberal Democracy, Sage Publications, London.
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8. Zald, Mayer, and John McCarthy, (1987), Social Movements in an Organizational Society, Transaction Publisher, London.
Prakash S. Yadav
Assistant Professor & Head, Department of Social Work, Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth, Mukundnagar, Gultekdi, Pune 411037. Maharashtra, (India).
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