3 Examples of Advocacy

In short, advocacy involves educating people about a problem and then asking them to do something about it. This can be done in a variety of ways.

Advocacy has three main areas: self-advocacy, individual advocacy, and systems advocacy. Self and individual advocacy focus on a specific person, while systems advocacy zooms out to change laws and policies.

1. The National Child Labor Committee

At the turn of the 20th century, children were employed in dangerous industrial jobs that required dangerous tools and exposed them to hazardous chemicals. They worked long hours and were often injured in accidents. In some cases, they lost fingers or limbs. Families could hardly afford to send them to school, and many parents saw child labor as a good way to teach their children responsibility and discipline.

Reformers like Jane Addams, who lived at Hull-House with immigrant families, sought to protect these children by creating a national organization, the National Child Labor Committee. The NCLC began to draft state legislation that would raise minimum standards for workers. Lewis Wickes Hine, a photographer who had been working at the Committee, traveled the country and documented child labor. Hine tricked his way into factories, capturing heart-breaking images.

The NCLC had great success at the state level, particularly in the North. However, the group faced enormous obstacles in the South. Mill owners branded the NCLC as northern-backed agitators who were out to destroy southern industry. To counter this charge, McKelway argued that northern manufacturers owned the majority of southern textile mills. This helped the NCLC make headway in Alabama, which passed a law limiting work to 12 years and setting maximum working hours.

2. Ralph Nader

As an example of systems advocacy, Ralph Nader first made headlines in 1965 with his book Unsafe at Any Speed, a scathing indictment of the auto industry that led to congressional hearings and a series of automobile safety laws a year later. He went on to champion a broad range of consumer and environmental issues. His research and lobbying helped establish federal regulatory agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and Consumer Product Safety Commission. He also played a role in the passing of the Freedom of Information Act and the National Cooperative Bank Act.

Nader has worked tirelessly to advance meaningful civic institutions and citizen participation as an antidote to corporate and government inaction. In addition to his own organization, Public Citizen, he has launched and mentored numerous watchdog groups, ranging from the Center for Study of Responsive Law (CSRL) to student Public Interest Research Groups, known as PIRGs, that work on college campuses across the country.

As an advocate, it’s important to be flexible enough to change your approach and messaging as needed. Whether you’re fighting for access to affordable healthcare or the rights of the environment, things can change fast. You need to be able to adapt quickly and take advantage of opportunities that arise.

3. Dawn Soap

Dawn was first sold as a bar soap in the 1950s, and liquid dish detergent followed in 1972. Today, the product has a 46% share of the US market and is owned by Procter & Gamble. The company has donated massive amounts of the sudsy stuff to help clean up wildlife from oil spills such as the Exxon Valdez and the BP disaster. They have also created cause campaigns to encourage recycling, going green and turning everyday people into wildlife heroes.

But, is this household cleaner good for the environment? While the brand boasts it’s 90% biodegradable, that doesn’t mean it breaks down completely. Some of the ingredients, such as Triclosan and 1,4-dioxane, can remain in the soil and cause harm to wildlife. This can affect the habitat and cause diseases and death in animals that come into contact with it.

Despite the negative environmental effects, many people swear by Dawn as a cleaning agent. It’s great for removing hair dye from clothing, and it can be used to unclog a toilet. People even use it to get paint stains out of skin, and some claim it helps with greasy hair. However, a natural alternative is Castile soap, which can be used as body wash, shampoo, dog shampoo and for general household cleaning.

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