Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Concept of Informed Advocacy in Victim Services Organizations

Informed Advocacy

A central mandate in any policy I have created for staff or volunteers (not to mention, myself) is that they practice informed advocacy. Informed advocacy is a fluid practice of seeking relevant, up-to-date knowledge that will enhance their effectiveness as an advocate. Informed advocacy is self- propelled. There is no stagnant mindset resulting in “No one told me how” or “ I didn’t know” responses to unresolved problems.

This management mindset not only ensures better outcomes for the crime victims we are advocating for but it is also empowering  for the advocate doing the work. Advocates are inspired to be pro-active, to research and to think outside the box.  The boundaries, of course, are the ethics established in any victim services agency. Those are rigid - with no exceptions - to ensure confidentiality, safety and professionalism. Thorough staff training in the beginning of any advocacy career provides a reference point. Once staff are trained on  ethics and best practices, trust must follow. The onus of laying this foundation is on the administration. Beyond that, agencies must provide the tools, share information, allow free discussion and encourage new ideas.

Some victim services agencies/ domestic violence shelters have become notorious for their own power and control issues leading to disenfranchised staff members and unappreciated volunteers.  Only an empowered staff can selflessly and effectively empower crime victims.  To achieve this paradigm shift administration must open the door to staff and volunteers. Involve those effected in grant writing and reporting. Allow staff to do internet research, involve them in writing a social media policy and participating in outreach, encourage staff to go to trainings and meetings and network in the community. Support self improvement, further education and even career advancement within or outside your workplace.

Without this freedom, many advocates, after a time, experience disengagement, apathy and perceive themselves as increasingly ineffective. In the practice of informed advocacy an advocate owns their actions, contributes to the formation of their professional legacy and enhances their resume, along the way they learn to provide the best service for victims and their families.

Policies that expect staff to take initiative without worrying about upsetting a stagnant administrative mindset is an investment of trust that is returned many times over. Encourage activism. Employee involvement is creating an environment in which advocates have an impact on decisions and actions that affect their daily work environment and policies. Keeping the workplace environment inclusive and alive translates to providing the best and most innovative services to those who seek our help.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting blog post about moving away from traditional leadership hierarcies:


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